DARPA and Stanford Brain Imaging Collaboration helps to bring a new CLARITY to the world of Neuroscience

Thanks to a 100 million dollar grant through the White House Brain Mapping Project to the NIH, NSF, and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), a dynamically new approach to how we view the brain has arisen: the CLARITY Brain Imaging Technique. With this technique, scientists are hoping to map brain connections on a large scale, visualizing how every single neuron is fired and interconnected with the other ones in the system. 

Probing Brain’s Depth, Trying to Aid Memory

The Department of Defense on Tuesday announced a $40 million investment in what has become the fastest-moving branch of neuroscience: direct brain recording. Two centers, one at the University of Pennsylvania and the other at the University of California, Los Angeles, won contracts to develop brain implants for memory deficits. Their aim is to develop new treatments for traumatic brain injury, the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Its most devastating symptom is the blunting of memory and reasoning. Scientists have found in preliminary studies that they can sharpen some kinds of memory by directly recording, and stimulating, circuits deep in the brain. Unlike brain imaging, direct brain recording allows scientists to conduct experiments while listening to the brain’s internal dialogue in real time, using epilepsy patients like Ralph or people with Parkinson’s disease as active collaborators.

DARPA-Funded Research Offers Faster, Better Views of Entire Brain

A new research protocol developed at Stanford University in California improves on their previous technological breakthrough and lets neuroscientists visualize a brain across multiple scales, says program manager Dr. Justin Sanchez. Stanford scientists earlier developed a method called Clear, Lipid-exchanged, Acrylamide-hybridized Rigid, Imaging/immunostaining compatible, Tissue hydrogel (CLARITY) to study brain tissue. The method uses a chemical to transform intact biological tissues into a hydrogel hybrid, which makes the brain tissues transparent. “Brains are not clear to begin with, therefore if you’re trying to use, let’s say, a microscope to study the volume of tissue of the brain, the light can’t transverse through all of the structure,” Sanchez explains. “However, if you do ‘clarify’ it using this very novel technique, then you are able to get through a volume of tissue and study all of the circuitry.” Under the CLARITY protocol, Sanchez says, it could take upwards of 80 years to conduct the imaging process for a complete human brain. But the new protocol accelerates the process so that the same technique now takes 220 days.