Brain heating induced by near-infrared lasers during multiphoton microscopy

J Neurophysiol. 2016 Sep 1;116(3):1012-23. doi: 10.1152/jn.00275.2016. Epub 2016 Jun 8.


Two-photon imaging and optogenetic stimulation rely on high illumination powers, particularly for state-of-the-art applications that target deeper structures, achieve faster measurements, or probe larger brain areas. However, little information is available on heating and resulting damage induced by high-power illumination in the brain. In the current study we used thermocouple probes and quantum dot nanothermometers to measure temperature changes induced by two-photon microscopy in the neocortex of awake and anaesthetized mice. We characterized heating as a function of wavelength, exposure time, and distance from the center of illumination. Although total power is highest near the surface of the brain, heating was most severe hundreds of micrometers below the focal plane, due to heat dissipation through the cranial window. Continuous illumination of a 1-mm(2) area produced a peak temperature increase of ∼1.8°C/100 mW. Continuous illumination with powers above 250 mW induced lasting damage, detected with immunohistochemistry against Iba1, glial fibrillary acidic protein, heat shock proteins, and activated caspase-3. Higher powers were usable in experiments with limited duty ratios, suggesting an approach to mitigate damage in high-power microscopy experiments.

Keywords: hyperthermia; multifocal; multiphoton; nanothermometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Body Temperature / radiation effects*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / radiation effects
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Heating*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microfilament Proteins / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Neocortex / radiation effects*
  • Photons
  • Thermometry
  • Wakefulness


  • Aif1 protein, mouse
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Microfilament Proteins
  • Caspase 3