Wednesday, March 16, 2011

RatCAP Producing Great New Looks into Brain Activity

ARTICLE: Miniature 'Wearable' PET Scanner: Simultaneous study of Behavior and Brain Function in Animals

According to, Scientists have recently been able to attach a portable PET scanner to rats. With the PET scanner being worn on the rat's head, they are able to measure brain stimulus as the rat is awake and responding to stimulus. This is unique because normally an animal must be anesthetized and immobile for accurate scan to be taken. The device is appropriately named "RatCAP". The RatCAP is described below from the article:

"After several years of development, the scientists have arrived at a design for a miniature, portable, donut- shaped PET scanner that can be "worn" like a collar on a rat's head for simultaneous studies of brain function and behavior. Weighing only 250 grams, the device -- dubbed RatCAP, for Rat Conscious Animal PET -- is counterbalanced by a system of springs and motion stabilizers to allow the animal significant freedom of movement. Measurements of the rats' stress hormones indicated only moderate and temporary increases."

If this technology can be shown to be reliable, which it has been very useful so far in evaluating dopamine levels in the animals' brains, neuroscientists could adapt this to larger animals and eventually humans. With this new type of "wearable" scanner being miniaturized and portable, we may also see this adapted to new types of scanning.

For an example of expansion of the RatCAP's basic concepts, think about sports trainers. If they were able to place a portable CT or MRI scanner on a knee in order to get a real time look at how a knee is functioning and to look for any problems within the athlete's movements, there would be a much greater chance of getting a correct diagnosis the first time. On the Neurological side of things, this same type of device could be used to accurately show the stimulus points of a suspect in a murder case.

The RatCAP provides inspiration not just for real time mapping of brain activity, but also for further research into the portability and uses of other types of imaging machinery. What if a doctor could take a portable MRI scanner to third world nations and help diagnose and operate on cancer victims? Would this not provide a quick and accurate look at the patient's ailment, and give the doctor a much greater chance at a successful surgery in the field?

Study Guide Questions:

1. What does RatCAP stand for?

2. According to Paul Vaska, what is PET used for?

3. In this case, what was the RatCAP used to measure?


DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory. "Miniature 'wearable' PET scanner: Simultaneous study of behavior and brain function in animals." ScienceDaily 14 March 2011. 20 March 2011­/releases/2011/03/110313160023.htm.

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