Imaging in vivo neurotransmitter modulation


Principal Investigator: Dean Foster Wong
Johns Hopkins University
Title: Imaging in vivo neurotransmitter modulation of brain network activity in realtime
BRAIN Category: Next Generation Human Imaging (RFA MH-14-217)

Dr. Wong and colleagues will explore the possibility that newly developed infrared chemical tags may be used for minimally invasive imaging of rapidly changing human brain chemical messenger activity – with greater time resolution.

NIH Webpages


Project Description

Neuronal depolarization and neurotransmitter release underlie some of the most fundamental components of normal physiology and the etiology of brain pathophysiology. There is a tremendous need for high temporal resolution measurements of neurotransmitter release and its modulation of brain neuronal networks. While there has been progress in measuring neuronal depolarization in vivo in small animals, the current overall methodology of deployment, excitation and measurement of signal from voltage sensitive dyes (VSDs) commonly entails craniotomy and other invasive measures, and thus is currently only practical in rodent studies. We aim to develop a transformative brain imaging technique which will allow minimally invasive/non-invasive imaging of neuronal depolarization and related neurotransmitter release ultimately in the living human brain. While challenging methodologically, we believe that our team of multidisciplinary experts consisting of neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, electrical and bioengineers, and brain imaging physicists and chemists, will be able to plan over a period of three years a practical and clear path to the development of such a potentially paradigm-shifting imaging technique. To do so, we propose three Aims. Aim 1 is to develop voltage sensitive probes for sub-millisecond measurements of membrane potentials and action potentials of cortical neurons in humans and other primates in vivo. Aim 2 will be to quantify highly temporally resolved neurotransmitter action with measures of lactate, pH, and redox potential changes in vivo. Finally, Aim 3 will pursue a pilot study of photoacoustic detection of neurotransmitter action by delivery of nanosecond pulses to intact skin and skull in response to changed absorption spectra of voltage or pH sensitive dyes. We hypothesize that we can also derive from these voltage depolarizations, regionally active neurotransmitter release, and through pharmacologic manipulation, help derive where the depolarizations have been modulated by neurotransmitters. This will allow understanding of depolarization waves that up to now have not been linked with neuropharmacology directly. Our approaches will be tested in the rodent brain and then translated into non-human primate brain. By the end of three years, we anticipate providing the evidence that it is feasible to carry out neurotransmitter modulation of neuroactivity, including neuronal depolarization, and to have developed a plan for building a brain imaging instrument to capture these events, enabling minimally-invasive procedures for transformative imaging of the human brain in health and disease.


Public Health Relevance Statement

This R24 if successful will provide a transformative new method and device for in vivo human brain imaging of brain neuronal firing and neurotransmitter action at very high time resolution. This will for the first time measure human brain activity in vivo with nearly real time measures, enabling paradigm-shifting studies of normal brain physiology and neuropsychiatric disorders.


NIH Spending Category

Bioengineering; Brain Disorders; Diagnostic Radiology; Nanotechnology; Neurosciences


Project Terms

absorption; Action Potentials; Animals; awake; base; Binding (Molecular Function); Biomedical Engineering; Blood – brain barrier anatomy; Brain; Brain imaging; Cerebral cortex; Cerebrum; Craniotomy; cranium; Dendritic Spines; Detection; Development; Devices; Disease; Dissection; Dopamine; Dyes; Etiology; Event; Fluorescence; Fluorescent Probes; Focused Ultrasound Therapy; Functional disorder; Functional Imaging; gamma-Aminobutyric Acid; Glutamates; Glycolysis; Goals; Health; Human; Image; imaging modality; Imaging Techniques; in vivo; in vivo imaging; Individual; innovation; insight; instrument; interest; Life; Ligands; Link; Measurement; Measures; Membrane Potentials; Methodology; Methods; millisecond; minimally invasive; monoamine; Monoclonal Antibody R24; multidisciplinary; nanoparticle; nanosecond; neurochemistry; Neurons; Neuropharmacology; neuropsychiatry; Neurosciences; neurotransmitter release; Neurotransmitters; non-invasive imaging; nonhuman primate; novel; Optics; Oxidation-Reduction; Physiologic pulse; Physiological; Physiology; Pilot Projects; Positron-Emission Tomography; postsynaptic; pre-clinical; Presynaptic Terminals; Primates; Procedures; Production; public health relevance; quantum; receptor; Records; Resolution; response; Rodent; Scalp structure; Science; Sensory Receptors; Serotonin; Signal Transduction; Skin; small molecule; sound; success; Surface; Synapses; System; Technology; Testing; Time; Translating; Ultrasonography; voltage; Work

Skip to toolbar