Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary and fast-growing market segment, primarily based on brain mapping investigations aimed to understand complex neuronal circuits and nervous operational pathways. It is well known that brain activity relies on interactions between large populations of neurons located in different brain regions. Understanding the relationships between these specific areas and disentangling the contributions of individual neurons to circuit function is an essential step to understand brain functioning.
In this scenario, functional imaging represents an ideal tool to detect neuronal (sub)populations whose activity is correlated with a behavioural outcome. Over the last decades, optical imaging at microscale level opened a new way to directly image brain activity providing useful insight in neuronal activity. However, state-of-the-art technologies are still far from providing a spatio-temporal resolution suitable for the detection of fast processes (such as single-cell action potential) over the whole brain.
There is, indeed, an experimental trade-off between imaging speed, field of view and sample dimensions that limits current recording technology in imaging very large neuronal populations with concurrently high spatial and temporal resolution. Consequently, interactions between neurons in different brain areas are easily missed, functionally related ensembles of neurons can be undetectable, blinded or falsely interpreted. In this framework, development of new optical systems able to rapidly image the entire brain it is a growing necessity to advance research boundaries. On top of that, another relevant research need is to elucidate how neuronal circuit activity is causally related to behaviour therefore it is necessary to externally stimulate neuronal activity during behaviour.
In this scenario, optogenetic stimulation unlocked a new interesting way to arbitrarily interfere with brain function. Optogenetic fundamentally relies on light delivery technology to selectively target single neurons allowing external modulation of neuronal activity. The advent of optogenetics provides a new package of tools for neurobiologists to monitor and activate neurons.
The RAPTOGEN project aims to meet end-users’ needs within the neuroscience market, thus enabling to perform intensive experiments combining fast functional imaging and optogenetic with significantly more precise results, while limiting time and costs. RAPTOGEN project is in line with the EU Human Brain Project (HBP) guidelines and can contribute positively in fostering brain research opening-up new frontiers for investigating brain diseases and developing novel therapies and treatments.