Population imaging of neural activity in awake behaving mice

Nature. 2019 Oct;574(7778):413-417. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1641-1. Epub 2019 Oct 9.


A longstanding goal in neuroscience has been to image membrane voltage across a population of individual neurons in an awake, behaving mammal. Here we describe a genetically encoded fluorescent voltage indicator, SomArchon, which exhibits millisecond response times and is compatible with optogenetic control, and which increases the sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio, and number of neurons observable several-fold over previously published fully genetically encoded reagents1-8. Under conventional one-photon microscopy, SomArchon enables the routine population analysis of around 13 neurons at once, in multiple brain regions (cortex, hippocampus, and striatum) of head-fixed, awake, behaving mice. Using SomArchon, we detected both positive and negative responses of striatal neurons during movement, as previously reported by electrophysiology but not easily detected using modern calcium imaging techniques9-11, highlighting the power of voltage imaging to reveal bidirectional modulation. We also examined how spikes relate to the subthreshold theta oscillations of individual hippocampal neurons, with SomArchon showing that the spikes of individual neurons are more phase-locked to their own subthreshold theta oscillations than to local field potential theta oscillations. Thus, SomArchon reports both spikes and subthreshold voltage dynamics in awake, behaving mice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Environmental Biomarkers* / genetics
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Mice
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Optical Imaging / methods*
  • Optogenetics
  • Wakefulness / physiology*


  • Environmental Biomarkers