Visualizing the cortical representation of whisker touch: voltage-sensitive dye imaging in freely moving mice

Neuron. 2006 May 18;50(4):617-29. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.03.043.


Voltage-sensitive dye imaging resolves the spatiotemporal dynamics of supragranular subthreshold cortical activity with millisecond temporal resolution and subcolumnar spatial resolution. We used a flexible fiber optic image bundle to visualize voltage-sensitive dye dynamics in the barrel cortex of freely moving mice while simultaneously filming whisker-related behavior to generate two movies matched frame-by-frame with a temporal resolution of up to 2 ms. Sensory responses evoked by passive whisker stimulation lasted longer and spread further across the barrel cortex in awake mice compared to anesthetized mice. Passively evoked sensory responses were large during behaviorally quiet periods and small during active whisking. However, as an exploring mouse approached an object while whisking, large-amplitude, propagating cortical sensory activity was evoked by active whisker-touch. These experiments demonstrate that fiber optics can be used to image cortical sensory activity with high resolution in freely moving animals. The results demonstrate differential processing of sensory input depending upon behavior.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia, General
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Fiber Optic Technology / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Mice
  • Optical Fibers
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / innervation*
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Fluorescent Dyes