Imaging the Dynamics of Neocortical Population Activity in Behaving and Freely Moving Mammals

  • Amiram Grinvald
  • Carl C. H. Petersen


The development of functional imaging techniques applicable to neuroscience and covering a wide range of spatial and temporal scales has greatly facilitated the exploration of the relationships between cognition, behaviour and electrical brain activity. For mammals, the neocortex plays a particularly profound role in generating sensory perception, controlling voluntary movement, higher cognitive functions and planning goal-directed behaviours. Since these remarkable functions of the neocortex cannot be explored in simple model preparations or in anaesthetised animals, the neural basis of behaviour must be explored in awake behaving subjects. Because neocortical function is highly distributed across many rapidly interacting regions, it is essential to measure spatiotemporal dynamics of cortical activity in real time. Extensive work in anaesthetised mammals has shown that in vivo voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDI) reveals the neocortical population membrane potential dynamics at millisecond temporal resolution and subcolumnar spatial resolution. Here, we describe recent advances indicating that VSDI is also already well developed for exploring cortical function in behaving monkeys and freely moving mice. The first animal model, the non-human primate, is well suited for fundamental exploration of higher level cognitive function and behaviour. The second animal model, the mouse, benefits from a rich arsenal of molecular and genetic technologies. In the monkey, imaging from the same patch of cortex, repeatedly, is feasible for a long period of time, up to a year. In the rodent, VSDI is applicable to freely moving mice. Interactions between different cortical areas and different cortical columns can therefore now be dynamically mapped through VSDI and related to the corresponding behaviour. Thus, by applying VSDI to mice and monkeys one can begin to explore how behaviour emerges from neuronal activity in neuronal networks residing in different cortical areas.


Spatiotemporal Dynamic Primary Somatosensory Cortex Cortical Column Neuronal Assembly Quiet Wakefulness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



AG’s research was funded by the Weizmann Institute of Science, The Grodetsky Center, the Goldsmith, Glasberg, Heineman and Korber foundations, BMBF, ISF grants, Ms. Enoch and the EU daisy grants. CCHP’s research was funded by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation and


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amiram Grinvald
    • 1
  • Carl C. H. Petersen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of NeurobiologyWeizmann Institute of ScienceRehovotIsrael
  2. 2.Laboratory of Sensory Processing, Brain Mind Institute, Faculty of Life SciencesÉcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)LausanneSwitzerland

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