Fiber-optic endomicroscopes open new avenues for the application of non-linear optics to novel in vivo applications. To achieve focus scanning in vivo, shape memory alloy (SMA) wires have been used to move optical elements in miniature endomicroscopes. However, this method has various limitations, making it difficult to achieve accurate and reliable depth scanning. Here we present a feedback-controlled SMA depth scanner. With a Hall effect sensor, contraction of the SMA wire can be tracked in real time, rendering accurate and robust control of motion. The SMA depth scanner can achieve up to 490 µm travel and with open-loop operation, it can move more than 350 µm within one second. With the feedback loop engaged, submicron positioning accuracy was achieved along with superior positioning stability. The high-precision positioning capability of the SMA depth scanner was verified by depth-resolved nonlinear endomicroscopic imaging of mouse brain samples.
Primary sensory neurons in the DRG play an essential role in initiating pain by detecting painful stimuli in the periphery. Tissue injury can sensitize DRG neurons, causing heightened pain sensitivity, often leading to chronic pain. Despite the functional importance, how DRG neurons function at a population level is unclear due to the lack of suitable tools. Here we developed an imaging technique that allowed us to simultaneously monitor the activities of >1,600 neurons/DRG in live mice and discovered a striking neuronal coupling phenomenon that adjacent neurons tend to activate together following tissue injury. This coupled activation occurs among various neurons and is mediated by an injury-induced upregulation of gap junctions in glial cells surrounding DRG neurons. Blocking gap junctions attenuated neuronal coupling and mechanical hyperalgesia. Therefore, neuronal coupling represents a new form of neuronal plasticity in the DRG and contributes to pain hypersensitivity by “hijacking” neighboring neurons through gap junctions.
Astrocytes are highly ramified glial cells found throughout the central nervous system (CNS). They express a variety of neurotransmitter receptors that can induce widespread chemical excitation, placing these cells in an optimal position to exert global effects on brain physiology. However, the activity patterns of only a small fraction of astrocytes have been examined and techniques to manipulate their behavior are limited. As a result, little is known about how astrocytes modulate CNS function on synaptic, microcircuit, or systems levels. Here, we review current and emerging approaches for visualizing and manipulating astrocyte activity in vivo. Deciphering how astrocyte network activity is controlled in different physiological and pathological contexts is crucial for defining their roles in the healthy and diseased CNS.
Spatial patterns of functional organization, resolved by microelectrode mapping, comprise a core principle of sensory cortices. In auditory cortex, however, recent two-photon Ca2+ imaging challenges this precept, as the traditional tonotopic arrangement appears weakly organized at the level of individual neurons. To resolve this fundamental ambiguity about the organization of auditory cortex, we developed multiscale optical Ca2+ imaging of unanesthetized GCaMP transgenic mice. Single-neuron activity monitored by two-photon imaging was precisely registered to large-scale cortical maps provided by transcranial widefield imaging. Neurons in the primary field responded well to tones; neighboring neurons were appreciably cotuned, and preferred frequencies adhered tightly to a tonotopic axis. By contrast, nearby secondary-field neurons exhibited heterogeneous tuning. The multiscale imaging approach also readily localized vocalization regions and neurons. Altogether, these findings cohere electrode and two-photon perspectives, resolve new features of auditory cortex, and offer a promising approach generalizable to any cortical area.
Astrocytes perform crucial supportive functions, including neurotransmitter clearance, ion buffering, and metabolite delivery. They can also influence blood flow and neuronal activity by releasing gliotransmitters in response to intracellular Ca(2+) transients. However, little is known about how astrocytes are engaged during different behaviors in vivo. Here we demonstrate that norepinephrine primes astrocytes to detect changes in cortical network activity. We show in mice that locomotion triggers simultaneous activation of astrocyte networks in multiple brain regions. This global stimulation of astrocytes was inhibited by alpha-adrenoceptor antagonists and abolished by depletion of norepinephrine from the brain. Although astrocytes in visual cortex of awake mice were rarely engaged when neurons were activated by light stimulation alone, pairing norepinephrine release with light stimulation markedly enhanced astrocyte Ca(2+) signaling. Our findings indicate that norepinephrine shifts the gain of astrocyte networks according to behavioral state, enabling astrocytes to respond to local changes in neuronal activity.
The adult CNS contains an abundant population of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (NG2(+) cells) that generate oligodendrocytes and repair myelin, but how these ubiquitous progenitors maintain their density is unknown. We generated NG2-mEGFP mice and used in vivo two-photon imaging to study their dynamics in the adult brain. Time-lapse imaging revealed that NG2(+) cells in the cortex were highly dynamic; they surveyed their local environment with motile filopodia, extended growth cones and continuously migrated. They maintained unique territories though self-avoidance, and NG2(+) cell loss though death, differentiation or ablation triggered rapid migration and proliferation of adjacent cells to restore their density. NG2(+) cells recruited to sites of focal CNS injury were similarly replaced by a proliferative burst surrounding the injury site. Thus, homeostatic control of NG2(+) cell density through a balance of active growth and self-repulsion ensures that these progenitors are available to replace oligodendrocytes and participate in tissue repair.
Two-photon imaging of fluorescence in brain enables analysis of the structure and dynamic activity of neurons and glial cells in living animals. However, vital functions such as beating of the heart cause pulsations in brain tissue, leading to image distortion and loss of resolution. We find that synchronizing imaging scans to the cardiac cycle reduces motion artifacts, significantly improving the resolution of cellular structures. By interlacing multiple heartbeat triggered imaging scans, it was possible to image large brain volumes with negligible distortion. This approach can be readily incorporated into conventional microscopes to achieve substantial reductions in motion artifacts during two-photon imaging.