Autofluorescence optical imaging is rapidly becoming a widely used tool for mapping activity in the central nervous system function in vivo and investigating the coupling among neurons, glia, and metabolism. This paper provides a brief review of autofluorescence and of our recent work using flavoprotein imaging in the cerebellar cortex. Stimulation of the parallel fibers evokes an intrinsic fluorescence signal that is tightly coupled to neuronal activation and primarily generated postsynaptically. The signal originates from mitochondrial flavoproteins. The signal is biphasic, with the initial increase in fluorescence (light phase) resulting from the oxidation of flavoproteins and the subsequent decrease (dark phase) from the reduction of flavoproteins. The light phase is primarily neuronal, and the dark phase is primarily glial. Exploiting the spatial properties of molecular layer inhibition in the cerebellar cortex, we show that flavoprotein autofluorescence can monitor both excitatory and inhibitory activity in the cerebellar cortex. Furthermore, flavoprotein autofluorescence has revealed that molecular layer inhibition is organized into parasagittal domains that differentially modulate the spatial pattern of cerebellar cortical activity. The reduction in flavoprotein autofluorescence occurring in the inhibitory bands most likely reflects a decrease in intracellular Ca2+ in the neurons inhibited by the molecular layer interneurons. Therefore, flavoprotein autofluorescence imaging is providing new insights into cerebellar cortical function and neurometabolic coupling.
- Autofluorescence imaging
- Cerebellar cortex