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A team of Stanford scientists has developed an entirely non-invasive technique that provides a view of blood flow in the brain. The tool could provide powerful insights into strokes and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.

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This illustration shows how carbon nanotubes, once injected into the subject, can be fluoresced using near-infrared light in order to visualize the brain vasculature and track cerebral blood flow. Courtesy Dai Lab

Some of the most damaging brain diseases can be traced to irregular blood delivery in the brain. Now, Stanford chemists have employed lasers and carbon nanotubes to capture an unprecedented look at blood flowing through a living brain.

The technique was developed for mice but could one day be applied to humans, potentially providing vital information in the study of stroke and migraines, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The work is described in the journal Nature Photonics.

Current procedures for exploring the brain in living animals face significant tradeoffs. Surgically removing part of the skull offers a clear view of activity at the cellular level. But the trauma can alter the function or activity of the brain or even stimulate an immune response. Meanwhile, non-invasive techniques such as CT scans or MRI visualize function best at the whole-organ level; they cannot visualize individual vessels or groups of neurons.

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From Stanford Medicine News Center

Mice suffering chronic pain undergo a change in brain circuitry that makes them less willing to work for a reward, even though they still want it.

Chronic pain is among the most abundant of all medical afflictions in the developed world. It differs from a short-term episode of pain not only in its duration, but also in triggering in its sufferers a psychic exhaustion best described by the question, “Why bother?”

A new study in mice, conducted by investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has identified a set of changes in key parts of the brain that may explain chronic pain’s capacity to stifle motivation. The discovery could lead to entirely new classes of treatment for this damaging psychological consequence of chronic pain. Read More

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