Imaging voltage and brain chemistry with genetically encoded sensors and modulators

Curr Opin Chem Biol. 2020 Aug:57:166-176. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2020.07.006. Epub 2020 Aug 18.


Neurons and glia are functionally organized into circuits and higher-order structures that allow the precise information processing required for complex behaviors. To better understand the structure and function of the brain, we must understand synaptic connectivity, action potential generation and propagation, as well as well-orchestrated molecular signaling. Recently, dramatically improved sensors for voltage, intracellular calcium, and neurotransmitters/modulators, combined with advanced microscopy provide new opportunities for in vivo dissection of cellular and circuit activity in awake, behaving animals. This review focuses on the current trends in genetically encoded sensors for molecules and cellular events and their potential applicability to the study of nervous system in health and disease.

Keywords: Bioluminescence; GECI; GEVI; GEZI; Genetically encoded sensors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Calcium / analysis
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins / analysis*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / analysis
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Voltage-Sensitive Dye Imaging / methods*


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Calcium