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Rodent of the Week: A wearable, portable PET scanner for rats

March 18, 2011|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times

Any devoted reader of the Rodent of the Week knows by now how much science depends on our furry friends. Without them, we would know next to nothing.

That's why this week's news of a better way to study rats' brains deserves notice. Researchers reported they have developed a wearable, portable PET scanner that will measure the rodent brain function while the animals are awake and moving.

The device was developed by scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University. Immobilizing animals to perform PET scanning prevented researchers from studying neurochemistry simultaneously with the animals' behavior.

"Our approach was to eliminate the need for restraint by developing a PET scanner that would move with the animal, thus opening up the possibility of directly correlating the imaging data with behavioral data acquired at the same time," David Schlyer, a co-author of the paper, said in a news release.
Scientists tested the device in one experiment by showing that the level of the brain chemical dopamine in the rats' brains fell the more physically active they became.

The portable device is worn like a collar on the rat's head. It's lightwight and is balanced by springs and motion stabilizers. "Rats wearing the device appear to adapt well and move freely about their environment," said Craig Woody, a  co-author of the paper.

I'm sure it looks sweet too.

The paper was published Monday in the journal Nature Methods.

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