Strategies for mapping synaptic inputs on dendrites in vivo by combining two-photon microscopy, sharp intracellular recording, and pharmacology

Manuel Levy, Adrien E. Schramm, Prakash Kara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Uncovering the functional properties of individual synaptic inputs on single neurons is critical for understanding the computational role of synapses and dendrites. Previous studies combined whole-cell patch recording to load neurons with a fluorescent calcium indicator and two-photon imaging to map subcellular changes in fluorescence upon sensory stimulation. By hyperpolarizing the neuron below spike threshold, the patch electrode ensured that changes in fluorescence associated with synaptic events were isolated from those caused by back-propagating action potentials. This technique holds promise for determining whether the existence of unique cortical feature maps across different species may be associated with distinct wiring diagrams. However, the use of whole-cell patch for mapping inputs on dendrites is challenging in large mammals, due to brain pulsations and the accumulation of fluorescent dye in the extracellular milieu. Alternatively, sharp intracellular electrodes have been used to label neurons with fluorescent dyes, but the current passing capabilities of these high impedance electrodes may be insufficient to prevent spiking. In this study, we tested whether sharp electrode recording is suitable for mapping functional inputs on dendrites in the cat visual cortex. We compared three different strategies for suppressing visually evoked spikes: (1) hyperpolarization by intracellular current injection, (2) pharmacological blockade of voltage-gated sodium channels by intracellular QX-314, and (3) GABA iontophoresis from a perisomatic electrode glued to the intracellular electrode. We found that functional inputs on dendrites could be successfully imaged using all three strategies. However, the best method for preventing spikes was GABA iontophoresis with low currents (5-10 nA), which minimally affected the local circuit. Our methods advance the possibility of determining functional connectivity in preparations where whole-cell patch may be impractical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Neural Circuits
Issue numberDEC
StatePublished - Dec 13 2012


  • Calcium imaging
  • Cat visual cortex
  • Dendrite
  • GABA iontophoresis
  • Intracellular recording
  • QX-314
  • Spike suppression
  • Two-photon imaging


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