Brain plasticity and functionality explored by nonlinear optical microscopy

L. Sacconi, L. Allegra, M. Buffelli, P. Cesare, E. Dangelo, D. Gandolfi, G. Grasselli, J. Lotti, J. Mapelli, P. Strata, F. S. Pavone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


In combination with fluorescent protein (XFP) expression techniques, two-photon microscopy has become an indispensable tool to image cortical plasticity in living mice. In parallel to its application in imaging, multi-photon absorption has also been used as a tool for the dissection of single neurites with submicrometric precision without causing any visible collateral damage to the surrounding neuronal structures. In this work, multi-photon nanosurgery is applied to dissect single climbing fibers expressing GFP in the cerebellar cortex. The morphological consequences are then characterized with time lapse 3-dimensional two-photon imaging over a period of minutes to days after the procedure. Preliminary investigations show that the laser induced fiber dissection recalls a regenerative process in the fiber itself over a period of days. These results show the possibility of this innovative technique to investigate regenerative processes in adult brain. In parallel with imaging and manipulation technique, non-linear microscopy offers the opportunity to optically record electrical activity in intact neuronal networks. In this work, we combined the advantages of second-harmonic generation (SHG) with a random access (RA) excitation scheme to realize a new microscope (RASH) capable of optically recording fast membrane potential events occurring in a wide-field of view. The RASH microscope, in combination with bulk loading of tissue with FM4-64 dye, was used to simultaneously record electrical activity from clusters of Purkinje cells in acute cerebellar slices. Complex spikes, both synchronous and asynchronous, were optically recorded simultaneously across a given population of neurons. Spontaneous electrical activity was also monitored simultaneously in pairs of neurons, where action potentials were recorded without averaging across trials. These results show the strength of this technique in describing the temporal dynamics of neuronal assemblies, opening promising perspectives in understanding the computations of neuronal networks.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventFrontiers in Ultrafast Optics: Biomedical, Scientific, and Industrial Applications X - San Francisco, CA, United States
Duration: Jan 24 2010Jan 26 2010


OtherFrontiers in Ultrafast Optics: Biomedical, Scientific, and Industrial Applications X
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco, CA


  • Action potential
  • Cerebellum
  • Climbing fiber
  • Non-linear microscopy
  • Purkinje cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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