Until recently, researchers studying the brain functions of rats would have to restrain or anesthesize them in order to carry out positron emission tomography (PET) scans. But thanks to a new break thru from the world of physics, a rat’s brain can now be scanned as it roams around freely. The new type of motion-compensated PET is ground breaking as it both allows rats to roam free and gathers data based on real conditions instead of those influenced by restraint measures or anesthesia.
This new system could be described as a victory for both animal rights advocates and those who rely on laboratory rats for their research. Andre Kyme and his research team at the University of Sydney, published the results of their work with the new PET scan in an article this week entitled: “Tracking and characterizing the head motion of unanaesthetized rats in positron emission tomography” in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface. In reference to the results, Kyme recently explained, “All the data collected is adjusted on the basis of the motion measured, so that useful 3-D images can be reconstructed.” He also pointed out that this motion tracking can be done easily and inexpensively.
The kind of knowledge gained from studying the brains of rats has benefited a wide range of scientific fields, namely neuroscience and pharmaceuticals. And while a new type of PET scan would be more ethical in terms of treatment of the rats, it would also allow for better scan results. Developments in the field of brain scans of this type are very much a win-win for all parties involved.
Just to further confirm their commitment to both the project and the rats, the research project was carried out according to a protocol devised by the University of Sydney Animal Ethics Committee.
Photo: SMercury98 / flickr
Reference:Andre Kyme, Steven Meikle, Clive Baldock, & Roger Fulton (2012). Tracking and characterizing the head motion of unanaesthetized rats in positron emission tomography Journal of the Royal Society Interface DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2012.0334