A Guide to Emerging Technologies for Large-Scale and Whole-Brain Optical Imaging of Neuronal Activity

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2018 Jul 8;41:431-452. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-072116-031458. Epub 2018 Apr 25.


The mammalian brain is a densely interconnected network that consists of millions to billions of neurons. Decoding how information is represented and processed by this neural circuitry requires the ability to capture and manipulate the dynamics of large populations at high speed and high resolution over a large area of the brain. Although the use of optical approaches by the neuroscience community has rapidly increased over the past two decades, most microscopy approaches are unable to record the activity of all neurons comprising a functional network across the mammalian brain at relevant temporal and spatial resolutions. In this review, we survey the recent development in optical technologies for Ca2+ imaging in this regard and provide an overview of the strengths and limitations of each modality and its potential for scalability. We provide guidance from the perspective of a biological user driven by the typical biological applications and sample conditions. We also discuss the potential for future advances and synergies that could be obtained through hybrid approaches or other modalities.

Keywords: Ca2+ imaging; functional brain network; high-speed optical neuronal recording; large-scale imaging; neural circuit dynamics; volumetric imaging.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain* / cytology
  • Brain* / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Optical Imaging / standards*