CLARITY is the breakthrough technique that is currently generating frenzy in neuroscience.
Developed jointly by Kwanghun Chung and Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University, the method came from a desire to understand mechanisms that give rise to psychiatric disease and from the lack of techniques available to do so.
Standard techniques for examining fine-scale brain structure involve slicing the brain into tissue-thin segments, analysing them under a microscope, and then – laboriously and often imprecisely – stacking the images back together.
CLARITY uses a chemical treatment to turn whole brains transparent, allowing researchers to examine the brain’s structure in high-resolution 3D detail and to show how intricate circuits in the brain create patterns of behaviour. Multiple fluorescent molecules that bind to specific cellular components are used to colour code the nervous system in a comprehensive pattern.
The controversial ‘Body Worlds’ exhibition, created by Professor Gunther von Hagens and now visited by more than 26 million people around the world, turned his groundbreaking plasticination technique into a globally recognised art form.
It will be interesting to see whether the astonishing visual imagery generated by CLARITY might also inspire a new generation of artists to educate and enthrall the public with its fascinating beauty.
Brain scan images: BBC / Stanford University
‘Body Worlds’ exhibition photos: Patty Mooney (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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