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Rev Neurosci. 2004;15(3):167-83.

Shining light on neurons--elucidation of neuronal functions by photostimulation.

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Clinical Neuropharmacology, Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.


Many neuronal functions can be elucidated by techniques that allow for a precise stimulation of defined regions of a neuron and its afferents. Photolytic release of neurotransmitters from 'caged' derivates in the vicinity of visualized neurons in living brain slices meets this request. This technique allows the study of the subcellular distribution and properties of functional native neurotransmitter receptors. These are prerequisites for a detailed analysis of the expression and spatial specificity of synaptic plasticity. Photostimulation can further be used to fast map the synaptic connectivity between nearby and, more importantly, distant cells in a neuronal network. Here we give a personal review of some of the technical aspects of photostimulation and recent findings, which illustrate the advantages of this technique.

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