By activating multiple fluorescent proteins in neurons, neuroscientists at Harvard University have developed a method to image the brain and nervous system in a plethora of colors dubbed a "Brainbow."

The technique, developed by Harvard scientists Jean Livet, Joshua R. Sanes, and Jeff W. Lichtman, allows researchers to tag neurons with roughly 90 distinct colors, a huge leap over the mere handful of shades possible with current fluorescent labeling. By permitting visual resolution of individual brightly colored neurons, this method is expected to help scientists chart the brain and nervous system.

"In the same way that a television monitor mixes red, green, and blue to depict a wide array of colors, the combination of three or more fluorescent proteins in neurons can generate many different hues," says Lichtman, professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Center for Brain Science in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "There are few tools neuroscientists can use to tease out the wiring diagram of the nervous system. Brainbow should help us much better map out the brain and nervous system's complex tangle of neurons."

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