Imaging Submillisecond Membrane Potential Changes from Individual Regions of Single Axons, Dendrites and Spines

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015;859:57-101. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-17641-3_3.


A central question in neuronal network analysis is how the interaction between individual neurons produces behavior and behavioral modifications. This task depends critically on how exactly signals are integrated by individual nerve cells functioning as complex operational units. Regional electrical properties of branching neuronal processes which determine the input-output function of any neuron are extraordinarily complex, dynamic, and, in the general case, impossible to predict in the absence of detailed measurements. To obtain such a measurement one would, ideally, like to be able to monitor, at multiple sites, subthreshold events as they travel from the sites of origin (synaptic contacts on distal dendrites) and summate at particular locations to influence action potential initiation. It became possible recently to carry out this type of measurement using high-resolution multisite recording of membrane potential changes with intracellular voltage-sensitive dyes. This chapter reviews the development and foundation of the method of voltage-sensitive dye recording from individual neurons. Presently, this approach allows monitoring membrane potential transients from all parts of the dendritic tree as well as from axon collaterals and individual dendritic spines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Bivalvia
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Lasers
  • Light
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Nerve Net / ultrastructure
  • Single-Cell Analysis / instrumentation
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Time Factors
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging / instrumentation
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes