Two types of live brain imaging are compared by how they visualize a neuron
The left side shows a neuron imaged with mosTF, a newly developed microscopy technology, while the right shows the neuron imaged with lineTF. The dendritic spines are clearly visible on the left, while they are obscured by noise on the right, showcasing mosTF's ability for highly detailed tracking of brain activity. (Courtesy of Yi Xue)

Imaging the Living Brain Unlike Ever Before

New technology improves on two-photon microscopy, making it easier to study neuroplasticity

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Yi Xue is the lead author of a paper, published May 13 in Nature Scientific Reports and in collaboration with researchers from MIT, that describes a new microscopy system that significantly improves upon the traditional two-photon method for in vivo imaging of the brain.  

Called mosTF, short for multiline orthogonal scanning temporal focusing, the system is eight times faster and four times clearer than two-photon imaging. The increased speed and clarity enable detailed tracking of living brain tissue unlike ever before, promising to provide new insights into neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt, learn and rewire itself.  

The technology works by scanning brain tissue with lines of light in perpendicular directions. This method is different from other imaging techniques that go point by point. 

“Our excitation light is a line rather than a point — more like a light tube than a light bulb,” Xue said. 

Learn more about the groundbreaking technology

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