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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Mar 28;97(7):3619-24.

Optical probing of neuronal circuits with calcium indicators.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.


An experimental difficulty in unraveling circuits in the mammalian nervous system is the identification of postsynaptic targets of a given neuron. Besides ultrastructural reconstructions, simultaneous recordings from pairs of cells in brain slices have been used to identify connected neurons. We describe in this paper a technique using calcium imaging that allows rapid identification of potential postsynaptic targets. This method consists of stimulating one neuron ("trigger") while imaging a population of cells to detect which other neurons ("followers") are activated by the trigger. By using bulk-loading of calcium indicators in slices of mouse visual cortex, we demonstrate that neurons that display somatic calcium transients time-locked to the spikes of a trigger neuron can be monosynaptically connected to it. This technique could be applied to reconstruct and assay circuits in the central nervous system.

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