Improved method enables optical probing of neuronal activity

29 January 2013

CNCR researchers Adrian Negrean and Huib Mansvelder take a significant step forward in recording neuronal membrane potentials from sub-cellular structures. Their findings are published in PNAS.

For decades, a major hurdle in neurophysiology has been the recording of neuronal membrane potentials from sub-cellular structures such as dendrites and spines. They are essential for the first steps in neuronal information processing.

A significant step forward in this direction has been recently detailed in a PNAS publication titled ” Palette of fluorinated voltage-sensitive hemicyanine dyes”. The publication is co-authored by CNCR researchers drs. Adrian Negrean and prof. Huibert D. Mansvelder, in collaboration with the research group of Prof. Leslie M. Loew from the University of Connecticut Health Center, USA (Yan et. al. Key to this advance was the development of a new generation of fluorescent probes. The probes change their fluorescence intensity proportionally to a change in the neuronal membrane potential. Once the neuronal membrane is marked with the membrane potential sensitive dye, a focused laser beam is directed to a cellular structure, such as a dendrite. The membrane potential is optically read-out by the generated fluorescence. The new fluorescent probes improved photostability and membrane potential sensitivity. This allowed non-invasive optical single-shot action potential detection.