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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29822. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029822. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

An optically stabilized fast-switching light emitting diode as a light source for functional neuroimaging.

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  • 1Broad Fellows Program and Division of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, United States of America.


Neuroscience research increasingly relies on optical methods for evoking neuronal activity as well as for measuring it, making bright and stable light sources critical building blocks of modern experimental setups. This paper presents a method to control the brightness of a high-power light emitting diode (LED) light source to an unprecedented level of stability. By continuously monitoring the actual light output of the LED with a photodiode and feeding the result back to the LED's driver by way of a proportional-integral controller, drift was reduced to as little as 0.007% per hour over a 12-h period, and short-term fluctuations to 0.005% root-mean-square over 10 seconds. The LED can be switched on and off completely within 100 μs, a feature that is crucial when visual stimuli and light for optical recording need to be interleaved to obtain artifact-free recordings. The utility of the system is demonstrated by recording visual responses in the central nervous system of the medicinal leech Hirudo verbana using voltage-sensitive dyes.

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