Circuit mapping by ultraviolet uncaging of glutamate

Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2012 Sep 1;2012(9):998-1004. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot070664.


In laser photostimulation, small clusters of neurons in brain slices are induced to fire action potentials by focal glutamate uncaging, and synaptic connectivity between photoexcited presynaptic neurons and individual postsynaptic neurons is assessed by intracellular recording of synaptic events. With a scanner, this process can be repeated sequentially across a patterned array of stimulus locations, generating maps of neurons' local sources of synaptic inputs. Laser scanning photostimulation (LSPS) based on patterned glutamate uncaging offers an efficient, quantitative, optical-electrophysiological way to map synaptic circuits in brain slices. The efficacy of glutamate-based photostimulation for circuit mapping (in contrast to electrical stimulation) derives from the ability to stimulate neurons with high precision and speed, and without stimulating axons of passage. This protocol describes the components, assembly, and operation of a laser scanning microscope for ultraviolet (UV) uncaging, along with experimental methods for circuit mapping in brain slices. It presents a general approach and a set of guidelines for quantitative circuit mapping using "standard" LSPS methods based on single-photon glutamate uncaging using a UV laser, a pair of scanning mirror galvanometers, a patch-clamp setup, and open-source data acquisition software.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping / methods*
  • Glutamates / pharmacology*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Glutamates