Engineers Bring Automation to Neuroscience

Graduate research assistant Ilya Kolb shows a well structure used to hold samples (center) and detergent/rinsing solution for cleaning pipettes between recording sessions. (Image courtesy of John Toon/Georgia Tech.) For scientists listening in on the faint whispers of brain neurons, a first-ever robotic technique for cleaning the tiny devices that record the signals could facilitate a new level of automation in neuroscience research. That could accelerate the gathering of information used to map the functions of brain cells and ultimately provide a better understanding what’s going on between our ears. The technique would be used in a recording method known as patch-clamping, in which a tiny liquid-filled glass pipette is connected to individual neurons. Since patch-clamping was invented three decades ago, the technique has required changing pipettes between recordings—a manual…


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