Nanoscale Optical Neuronal Recording using Nontoxic Quantum Probes

2015 Seed Grant
Lee Bassett, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania

We aim to develop a new class of multifunctional sensors that respond to chemical signals in the brain through quantum physics and that can be probed using light. The sensors are based on atom-scale defects in diamond nanoparticles, which are nontoxic, stable fluorophores harboring electron spins that respond to nanoscale magnetic fields. By attaching molecules to the nanoparticles’ surface that bind neurotransmitters, we aim to make the sensors chemically active, using the diamond spins to transduce dynamical changes in neurotransmitter concentrations into an optical signal. The resulting modular probes can be programmed to respond to specific neurotransmitters and targeted to specific cell types and locations (e.g., within synapses between neurons) to report the real-time activity of large-scale neuronal networks in living animals and, potentially, in humans.