The light microscope has played a pivotal role in advancing our understanding of life. However, high-performance scientific microscopes remain bulky and expensive bench-top systems. Inscopix’s miniaturized integration of the conventional bench-top system into a single device represents a pivotal advance, leading to improved imaging performance and innovative, new applications.
Relating neural dynamics to animal behavior has been a longstanding challenge in neuroscience. Inspired by this specific need, Inscopix’s founding team invented the Company’s core technology—the miniature, integrated fluorescence microscope. The first set of these miniature microscopes, each <2 g in mass and easily borne on the head of an adult mouse, were described in a Nature Methods article (Ghosh et. al., 2011). Since then, these devices have been used by neuroscientists at Stanford to image calcium dynamics in hundreds of individual neurons during free and active animal behavior. Such studies were record-breaking, both for the sheer numbers of neurons (up to ~600 cells per mouse) that were monitored in each behaving animal, and for the deep locations of some of the brain areas studied, including hippocampus and striatum. Members of Inscopix’s founding team also published in Nature Medicine (Barretto et. al., 2011; cover story) a chronic, live animal preparation that permits time-lapse imaging of the same individual neurons over a period of months. When combined with the miniature, integrated microscope, this advance allows the long-term tracking over weeks of hundreds of individual neurons’ calcium dynamics during active mouse behavior. Such data sets are unprecedented and cannot be gathered by state-of-the-art imaging or electrophysiology recording techniques.
The means for imaging the activity of large numbers of individual neurons in behaving animals (such as mice) can lead to crucial new knowledge on how neural circuits shape mammalian behavior, and how normal circuit processes go awry leading to diseases. Given its promise for the study of the brain and its diseases, Inscopix’s core technology has generated much excitement in several popular science and media outlets including Technology Review, MSNBC, Genetic Eng. News, Nature News, and Scientific American.