Visualizing the neuronal orchestra: Imaging the dynamics of large-scale neural ensembles in freely behaving mice


Mark Schnitzer

(Stanford University)

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Date: 4/23/2013


A longstanding challenge in neuroscience is to understand how populations of individual neurons and glia contribute to animal behavior and brain disease. Addressing this challenge has been difficult partly due to lack of appropriate brain imaging technology for visualizing cellular properties in awake behaving animals. I will describe a miniaturized, integrated fluorescence microscope for imaging cellular dynamics in the brains of freely behaving mice. The microscope also allows time-lapse imaging, for watching how individual cells’ coding properties evolve over weeks. By using the integrated microscope to perform calcium-imaging in behaving mice as they repeatedly explored a familiar environment, we tracked the place fields of thousands of CA1 hippocampal neurons over weeks. Spatial coding was highly dynamic, for on each day the neural representation of this environment involved a unique subset of neurons. Yet, the cells within the ~15–25% overlap between any two of these subsets retained the same place fields, and though this overlap was also dynamic it sufficed to preserve a stable and accurate ensemble representation of space across weeks. This study in CA1 illustrates the types of time-lapse studies on memory, ensemble neural dynamics, and coding that will now be possible in multiple brain regions of behaving rodents…

Created: Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013