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Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2005 Mar;25(2):245-82.

Imaging brain activity with voltage- and calcium-sensitive dyes.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


This paper presents three examples of imaging brain activity with voltage- or calcium-sensitive dyes and then discusses the methodological aspects of the measurements that are needed to achieve an optimal signal-to-noise ratio. Internally injected voltage-sensitive dye can be used to monitor membrane potential in the dendrites of invertebrate and vertebrate neurons in in vitro preparations. Both invertebrate and vertebrate ganglia can be bathed in voltage-sensitive dyes to stain all of the cell bodies in the preparation. These dyes can then be used to follow the spike activity of many neurons simultaneously while the preparations are generating behaviors. Calcium-sensitive dyes that are internalized into olfactory receptor neurons in the nose will, after several days, be transported to the nerve terminals of these cells in the olfactory bulb. There they can be used to measure the input from the nose to the bulb. Three kinds of noise are discussed. a. Shot noise from the random emission of photons from the preparation. b. Vibrational noise from external sources. c. Noise that occurs in the absence of light, the dark noise. Three different parts of the light measuring apparatus are discussed: the light sources, the optics, and the cameras. The major effort presently underway to improve the usefulness of optical recordings of brain activity are to find methods for staining individual cell types in the brain. Most of these efforts center around fluorescent protein sensors of activity.

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