Getting the big picture of tiny brain cells

LiLian Yuan, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and pharmacology, won the inaugural scientific photo competition at the ninth annual DMU Research Symposium on Dec. 6 with this image of cerebellar Purkinje cells in a mouse’s brain, taken with a Nikon confocal microscope. In her research on depression, mood regulation and related areas, she focuses on understanding mechanisms of neuronal connectivity and plasticity, how these processes are modulated by environmental and genetic factors and how they are altered in human diseases and under drug conditions.

“Mammalian brains consist of highly diverse types of neurons and distinct neural circuits. To understand the organization and function of the central nervous system, it is crucial to be able to selectively label and further manipulate specific cell types and pathways,” she says. “This picture depicts cerebellar Purkinje cells into which fluorescent proteins were genetically introduced.” 

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