Columbia University in the City of New York

Flow Cytometry

Deciphering the brain, one cell at a time

Data from flow cytometry analysis of nerve cells (Credit: Ira Schieren/Columbia's Zuckerman Institute).

To advance our understanding of how the brain functions as a whole, scientists investigate the tens of billions of cells that comprise it.

Teasing apart the roles and responsibilities of each cell — and using that knowledge to build a complete picture of larger brain circuits, areas or regions — is a herculean challenge, one that cannot be accomplished through traditional imaging methods alone. Flow Cytometry is a powerful technique that enables scientists to rapidly identify and analyze key physical and chemical properties of individual cells, at rates of up to 20,000 cells per second. Cells of interest can be physically separated from the population for further study even if the unique cells are present in a concentration as little as one in a million. The information we glean from these analyses is critical to understanding how individual cells function in a healthy brain, as well as how these cells change when their normal function is disrupted in disease.


  • Ira Schieren
  • Senior Science Officer, Director of Flow Cytometry
  • 212-853-1011