Calcium ions generate versatile intracellular signals that control key functions in all types of neurons. Imaging calcium in neurons is particularly important because calcium signals exert their highly specific functions in well-defined cellular subcompartments. In this Primer, we briefly review the general mechanisms of neuronal calcium signaling. We then introduce the calcium imaging devices, including confocal and two-photon microscopy as well as miniaturized devices that are used in freely moving animals. We provide an overview of the classical chemical fluorescent calcium indicators and of the protein-based genetically encoded calcium indicators. Using application examples, we introduce new developments in the field, such as calcium imaging in awake, behaving animals and the use of calcium imaging for mapping single spine sensory inputs in cortical neurons in vivo. We conclude by providing an outlook on the prospects of calcium imaging for the analysis of neuronal signaling and plasticity in various animal models.
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