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Chronic optical access through a polished and reinforced thinned skull


We present a method to form an optical window in the mouse skull that spans millimeters and is stable for months without causing brain inflammation. This enabled us to repeatedly image blood flow in cortical capillaries of awake mice and determine long-range correlations in speed. We also repeatedly imaged dendritic spines, microglia and angioarchitecture, as well as used illumination to drive motor output via optogenetics and induce microstrokes via photosensitizers.

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Figure 1: PoRTS window procedure, optical properties and basic capabilities.
Figure 2: Long-range coherence of RBC-flow velocity in capillaries in the cortex of awake head-fixed mice through a PoRTS window.
Figure 3: Examples of cortical physiology evoked through the PoRTS window.


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We thank B. Friedman, C. Portera-Cailliau and K. Svoboda for critical comments on an early version of the manuscript, M. Fuentes and C. Petersen for advice on head fixation, D.N. Hill for discussions on data analysis, J. Lee and K. Yang for help with animal husbandry, J.D. Moore for discussions on optical stimulation, and S. Tayman for a gift of tin oxide. This work was supported by grants from the US National Institutes of Health (EB003832, MH085499, NS059832 and RR021907 to D.K., and NS066361 to K.A.) and the Dana Program in Brain and Immuno-imaging (to K.A.) and fellowships from the Israeli Science Foundation (to P.B.), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and American Heart Association (to A.Y.S.), the Human Frontiers Scientific Program (to P.M.K.), and the US National Multiple Sclerosis Society (to D.D.).

Author information




P.J.D., A.Y.S. and P.S.T. conceived the PoRTS window; J.D.D. and D.K. developed the imaging tools; K.A., D.D., P.J.D., D.K., A.Y.S. and P.S.T. designed the experiments; P.J.D., P.M.K., A.Y.S. and P.S.T. carried out the experiments; P.B., P.J.D., D.K. and P.S.T. analyzed data; and P.J.D., D.K. and A.Y.S. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Kleinfeld.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1-10, Supplementary Note 1 (PDF 1711 kb)

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Drew, P., Shih, A., Driscoll, J. et al. Chronic optical access through a polished and reinforced thinned skull. Nat Methods 7, 981–984 (2010).

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