Made at UCL


Making technology widely available to understand how our brain works

How do we think? What makes us ‘us’? What goes wrong in neurological or psychiatric disease? A breakthrough in understanding how our brains work has been made publicly available so scientists around the world can contribute to developing this knowledge.

neuron pixabay

Many people will be affected by a neurological or psychiatric disease at some point in their lives, so understanding how our brains work and what can go wrong is crucial. Our brains are made up of over 100 billion nerve cells called neurons, and if we can measure both the activity of these neurons and the part of the brain where they’re found then we can learn more about how we think and who we are.

Until now, recording methods have been able to monitor either the neuron activity or the regions of the brain but not both.

Professors Matteo Carandini (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology), Kenneth Harris (UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology), Michael Häusser (UCL Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research) and John O’Keefe (UCL Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour) worked with Dr Tim Harris’ team at the Janelia Research Campus to develop a new technology called Neuropixels. 

These are tiny hair-thin electrodes that are inserted directly into the brain and can record activity digitally. This research, funded by the Wellcome Trust, has revolutionised how we study brain activity. 

These probes have been made available to all neuroscientists across the world so that different research labs can study their use and add to our collective knowledge.
Ultimately, this technology should help to improve people’s quality of life. For example, it could be used to help people with paralysis to operate robotic arms.

Meet the minds behind this discovery at the It's All Academic Festival on 5 October.