In the last decades, imaging membrane potential has become a fruitful approach to study neural circuits, especially in invertebrate preparations with large, resilient neurons. At the same time, particularly in mammalian preparations, voltage imaging methods suffer from poor signal to noise and secondary side effects, and they fall short of providing single-cell resolution when imaging of the activity of neuronal populations. As an introduction to these techniques, we briefly review different voltage imaging methods (including organic fluorophores, SHG chromophores, genetic indicators, hybrid, nanoparticles, and intrinsic approaches) and illustrate some of their applications to neuronal biophysics and mammalian circuit analysis. We discuss their mechanisms of voltage sensitivity, from reorientation, electrochromic, or electro-optical phenomena to interaction among chromophores or membrane scattering, and highlight their advantages and shortcomings, commenting on the outlook for development of novel voltage imaging methods.
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