Despite extensive research, brain function and neurological diseases are poorly understood. Complexities arise from the quantity of neurons in the brain and from the densely interconnected networks of intermixed cell types. Tools neuroscientists have traditionally relied upon include the patch clamp, which probes electrical activity of a single neuron, and fMRI, which images activity in volumes containing millions of neurons.
These approaches target two vastly different scales. However, it is possible that the brain functions through firing patterns in neural circuits and that neurological disease is the result of alterations to the physical structure of circuits or circuit dynamics. These circuits exist at an intermediate scale that neither patch clamp nor fMRI can readily address. In order to give neuroscientists a range of tools to study brain function, there is a need for methods that noninvasively probe the underlying microcircuitry in the brain with single-cell resolution.
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