Spencer Smith, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience and neuroengineering at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, has been awarded the 2015 McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award for his work on the two-photon microscope. Version 2.0 of this advanced observation tool will allow scientists to simultaneously examine individual neuron activity in two different parts of the brain – all in real-time.
By focusing on improving the field of view of the two-photon microscope, the UNC neuroscience team hopes to learn more about how different sections of the brain work together to produce physical and cognitive responses. Professor Smith likens observing neurons that are firing in two sections of the brain simultaneously to listening in on a phone conversation between two parties. If a person heard only one side of the conversation – or observed neurons in only one section of the brain – then the lack of context could give way to false assumptions. The improvements his team made to the microscope technology will allow researchers to see a more complete picture of neural functioning.