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Front Cell Neurosci. 2019 Jun 19;13:274. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2019.00274. eCollection 2019.

Measuring Sharp Waves and Oscillatory Population Activity With the Genetically Encoded Calcium Indicator GCaMP6f.

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Department of Pediatric Neurology, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
Department of Neuroscience, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, United States.
School of Biomedical Engineering, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China.
Department of Pediatrics, The First Hospital of Jilin University, Changchun, China.
Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, United States.


GCaMP6f is among the most widely used genetically encoded calcium indicators for monitoring neuronal activity. Applications are at both the cellular and population levels. Here, we explore two important and under-explored issues. First, we have tested if GCaMP6f is sensitive enough for the detection of population activity with sparse firing, similar to the sensitivity of the local field potential (LFP). Second, we have tested if GCaMP6f is fast enough for the detection of fast network oscillations critical for the encoding and consolidation of memory. We have focused this study on the activity of the hippocampal network including sharp waves (SWs), carbachol-induced theta oscillations, and interictal-like spikes. We compare simultaneous LFP and optical GCaMP6f fluorescent recordings in Thy1-GCaMP6f mouse hippocampal slices. We observe that SWs produce a clear population GCaMP6f signal above noise with an average magnitude of 0.3% ΔF/F. This population signal is highly correlated with the LFP, albeit with a delay of 40.3 ms (SD 10.8 ms). The population GCaMP6f signal follows the LFP evoked by 20 Hz stimulation with high fidelity, while electrically evoked oscillations up to 40 Hz were detectable with reduced amplitude. GCaMP6f and LFP signals showed a large amplitude discrepancy. The amplitude of GCaMP6f fluorescence increased by a factor of 28.9 (SD 13.5) between spontaneous SWs and carbachol-induced theta bursts, while the LFP amplitude increased by a factor of 2.4 (SD 1.0). Our results suggest that GCaMP6f is a useful tool for applications commonly considered beyond the scope of genetically encoded calcium indicators. In particular, population GCaMP6f signals are sensitive enough for detecting synchronous network events with sparse firing and sub-threshold activity, as well as asynchronous events with only a nominal LFP. In addition, population GCaMP6f signals are fast enough for monitoring theta and beta oscillations (<25 Hz). Faster calcium indicators (e.g., GCaMP7) will further improve the frequency response for the detection of gamma band oscillations. The advantage of population optical over LFP recordings are that they are non-contact and free from stimulation artifacts. These features may be particularly useful for high-throughput recordings and applications sensitive to stimulus artifact, such as monitoring responses during continuous stimulation.


GCaMP; calcium signals; hippocampal sharp wave; hippocampal slice; local field potential recordings; theta oscillation; voltage-sensitive dye imaging

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