Patching a Purkinje neuron 

Patching a Purkinje neuron 

Patching Neurons

I create my science-art images by using an extremely delicate technique called patch-clamp electrophysiology in combination with calcium imaging.  In simpler words, what I do is connect a small glass tube (pipette) with the round part of the neuron (soma), and I flow fluorescent dye through the tube into the cell.  Over 40 minutes, the dye diffuses through all the small branches of the neuron.

A dendrite filled with green fluorescent dye

A dendrite filled with green fluorescent dye

Calcium Ions + autism

The fluorescent dye binds with calcium ions present inside the neuron.  When I shock the neuron with a mild electrical stimulus, the calcium moves, and the dye moves with it.  The goal of these experiments is to look at how the dye moves through these neurons in an autistic cerebellum vs. a non-autistic cerebellum.  By comparing these, I study what is different about the autistic brain.  Learn more about my autism research here.

Me, performing experiments at the microscope in the Hansel Lab at The University of Chicago

Me, performing experiments at the microscope in the Hansel Lab at The University of Chicago

3d laser imaging

At the end of the experiment, I use a confocal microscope to collect a three-dimensional image of the neuron.  I create these images by shining lasers on the fluorescent dye.  Often, I add extra background lighting to create additional colors or stripes that show off the texture of the brain slice.  It takes about 20 minutes to scan the ~100 µm length of the neuron in three dimensions.  When the microscope is done I make a few adjustments, et voilà: SciArt!