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Video-rate volumetric functional imaging of the brain at synaptic resolution

Abstract

Neurons and neural networks often extend hundreds of micrometers in three dimensions. Capturing the calcium transients associated with their activity requires volume imaging methods with subsecond temporal resolution. Such speed is a challenge for conventional two-photon laser-scanning microscopy, because it depends on serial focal scanning in 3D and indicators with limited brightness. Here we present an optical module that is easily integrated into standard two-photon laser-scanning microscopes to generate an axially elongated Bessel focus, which when scanned in 2D turns frame rate into volume rate. We demonstrated the power of this approach in enabling discoveries for neurobiology by imaging the calcium dynamics of volumes of neurons and synapses in fruit flies, zebrafish larvae, mice and ferrets in vivo. Calcium signals in objects as small as dendritic spines could be resolved at video rates, provided that the samples were sparsely labeled to limit overlap in their axially projected images.

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Figure 1: Concept, design and performance of Bessel module for in vivo volume imaging.
Figure 2: High-throughput in vivo characterization of orientation tuning of dendritic spines in mouse V1.
Figure 3: Activity synchrony among GABAergic neural ensembles in V1 of awake mice.
Figure 4: 30-Hz volumetric imaging of spinal projection neurons in zebrafish larvae.
Figure 5: In vivo volumetric functional imaging of fruit fly brains responding to visual stimuli.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank V. Jayaraman for discussions, Y. Aso and Y. Sun for help with fly anatomy, and J. Kuhl for help with illustration. R.L., W.S., Y.L., A.K., J.D.S., B.M., M.T., M.K. and N.J. were supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. M.T. was also supported by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (S2602 and 15K06708). D.E.W., B.S. and D.F. were supported by the National Eye Institute of the NIH under Grant 2 R01 EY011488-17. J.B. was supported by a PhD fellowship from the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia. M.B.O was supported by the Champalimaud Foundation and the Bial Foundation (185/12).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

N.J. conceived and oversaw the project; R.L. and N.J. designed the Bessel modules; R.L. and N.J. built Bessel modules with help from A.K., W.S., B.M., D.E.W. and B.S.; W.S. and Y.L. prepared mouse samples; R.L., W.S., Y.L., A.K., B.M. and N.J. collected mouse data; M.K. and M.B.O. designed zebrafish experiments; J.B. prepared zebrafish samples with help from M.T.; R.L., A.K., J.B. and N.J. collected zebrafish data; J.D.S., R.L. and N.J. designed Drosophila experiments; J.D.S. prepared Drosophila samples; R.L., J.D.S. and N.J. collected Drosophila data; D.F. and N.J. designed ferret experiments; and D.E.W. and B.S. prepared ferret samples and collected ferret data. All authors contributed to data analysis and presentation. R.L. and N.J. wrote the paper with inputs from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Na Ji.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Integrated supplementary information

Supplementary Figure 1 Optimized Bessel foci for in vivo volume imaging.

(a) Images taken by scanning Bessel foci of various NAs, lateral and axial FWHMs: (Left panels) in vivo volume images of YFP+ neurites in cortex of an awake mouse (Thy1-YFP line H); scale bar: 10 μm. (Right panels) Axial point spread functions measured from 0.2-μm-diameter beads; x scale bar: 5 μm; z scale bar: 25 μm. (b) Mean intensity projection of the same neurites (color-coded by depth below pia) imaged by scanning a 1.05-NA Gaussian focus in 3D. Higher NA Bessel foci have stronger side rings, resulting in hazy backgrounds. Objective: Olympus 25×, 1.05 NA.

Supplementary Figure 2 Axonal varicosities and dendritic spines are resolvable in single frames of 30-Hz Bessel volume scanning.

(a) Individual raw image frames during 30-Hz volumetric measurements of calcium transients in a volume extending 60 μm in z. Arrows and numbers label individual axonal varicosities (putative boutons, 1,2) and dendritic spines (3-10) (same as in Fig. 1d), with their zoomed-in view shown in the panels on the right. (b) As comparison, the same synaptic structures in the average of 5 frames (i.e., effective volume rate of 6 Hz). Scale bars: left panels, 20 μm; right panels, 5 μm.

Supplementary Figure 3 Bessel focus-scanning is robust against axial motion artifacts.

(a) Mean axial projection of a 3D image stack (180 μm × 180 μm × 160 μm, 100 2D images) collected by Gaussian focus scanning, of GCaMP6f+ dendrites (0-160 μm below pia) in awake mouse S1 (structures color-coded by depth). (b) Averaged image of a 266-sec time series of the same dendrites imaged with a Bessel focus (0.4 NA and 91 μm axial FWHM) at 30 Hz. (c) Averaged image after registering the time series using TurboReg plugin of ImageJ. (d) Mean axial projection of a 3D image stack (80 μm × 40 μm × 25 μm, 25 2D images) collected by Gaussian focus scanning of YFP+ dendrites (46-70 μm below pia) in awake mouse V1 (Thy1-YFP line H, structures color-coded by depth). (e) Averaged image of a 100-sec 2D-registered time series of dendrites at 53 μm below pia acquired with Gaussian focus scanning at 7.4 Hz. (f) Averaged image of a 100-sec 2D-registered time series of the volume of dendrites in d imaged with a Bessel focus (0.4 NA and 19 μm axial FWHM) at 7.4 Hz. (g,h) Brain motion (upper panels, quantified as the lateral image displacement with time) causes (g) large changes of fluorescence signal from two YFP+ dendrites (ROI1 and ROI2) in Gaussian focus scanning mode, (h) but not Bessel focus scanning mode. Objective: Olympus 25×, 1.05 NA; Post-objective power: (a) 30 mW, (b,c) 103 mW, (d,e) 9 mW, (f) 21 mW; Wavelength: (a-c) 960 nm, (d-f) 940nm. Scale bars: 20 μm.

Supplementary Figure 4 In vivo characterization of dendritic spines in ferret V1 at 30-Hz volume rate.

(a,b) Two examples of applying Bessel focus scanning to the characterization of spines in ferret V1. (Left) Mean intensity projection of 3D image stacks by conventional Gaussian focus imaging in V1 of anesthetized ferrets; (Right) Images collected by scanning a Bessel beam with 0.4 NA and 50 μm axial FWHM. Yellow circles highlight example spines. (c) 10-trial-averaged calcium transients of spines in a and b for 12 grating angles. (d) Tuning curves of individual spines in a and b. Objective: Nikon 16×, NA 0.8; Post-objective power: 55 mW for Gaussian scanning and 84 mW for Bessel scanning; Wavelength: 960 nm; Shadow (c) and error bars (d): s.e.m; Scale bars: 10 μm. Representative images from 2 ferrets.

Supplementary Figure 5 Removal of neuropil contamination in Bessel focus scanning mode.

(a) (left) Image of a cell body obtained by scanning a Bessel beam with 0.4 NA and 78 μm axial FWHM, (right) overlaid with region of interest (ROI, orange outline) and the area used for calculating neuropil background (red region). (b) The difference between the averaged signal within ROI (F1) and the averaged signal within neuropil mask (Fneuropil) is used to calculate calcium transient of the neuron. After the removal of neuropil contamination, the cell body still exhibited activity correlated with pupil size. (c) and (d) same as a and b, except that the removal of neuropil contamination was applied to a volume of neuropil, resulting in minimal calcium transients. All fluorescence traces were plotted on the same scale.

Supplementary Figure 6 Activity synchrony among GABAergic neurons persists in the dark.

(a) Representative image of GAD2+ neurons expressing GCaMP6s (0-100 μm below pia) collected by scanning a Bessel beam with 0.4 NA and 78 μm axial FWHM. (b) Pupil size (red) and concurrently measured calcium transients of example neurons labeled in a. (c) Pearson’s correlation coefficient (R) between neuronal calcium transients and pupil size (1st row and 1st column, sorted by decreasing R), as well as between the calcium transients of all pairs of neurons identified in a. Objective: Olympus 25×, 1.05 NA; Post-objective power: 21 mW; Wavelength: 960 nm; Scale bar: 50 μm.

Supplementary Figure 7 Activity synchrony among GABAergic neurons was also observed in conventional Gaussian focus scanning mode.

(a) GABAergic neurons at three different depths (55, 73, and 93 μm) imaged by scanning a conventional Gaussian focus (1.05 NA, 1.4 μm axial FWHM). (b) Pupil size (red) and concurrently measured calcium transients of example neurons labeled in a. (c) Pearson’s correlation coefficient (R) between neuronal calcium transients and pupil size (1st row and 1st column, sorted by decreasing R), as well as between the calcium transients of all pairs of neurons identified in a. (d) Histogram distribution and (e) scatter plot of R measured from a mouse. Red open histogram: R between pupil size and neuronal calcium transients; Gray filled histogram: R between neurons; Dashed lines: median; n: number of R’s. Objective: Olympus 25×, 1.05 NA; Post-objective power: 18 mW for 55 and 93 μm depth and 14 mW for 73 μm depth; Wavelength: 960 nm; Scale bar: 50 μm.

Supplementary Figure 8 Engineering Bessel foci with asymmetric axial-intensity distribution with an SLM.

(a) Overlaying a binary concentric ring pattern on a quadratic phase pattern on the SLM allows the shaping of axial intensity distribution of the Bessel focus. S: period of the concentric rings in units of pixels. (b) Axial images and corresponding intensity profiles of a 2-μm-diameter bead using three different Bessel foci generated with periods S1, S2, S3. (c,d) (From left to right) in vivo images of neurons and neurites measured in V1 of awake mice using Gaussian focus, Bessel foci generated with S1, S2, and S3, respectively. Gaussian images are mean intensity projections with features color-coded by depth. Arrows point to deeper structures that had best image quality when the Bessel focus of increasing intensity with depth (S3 in b) was used. Objective: Olympus 25×, 1.05 NA; Post-objective power: c, 14 mW for Gaussian modality and 32 mW for Bessel modality; d, 21 mW for Gaussian modality and 61 mW for Bessel modality; Wavelength: 940 nm; Scale bars: 20 μm.

Supplementary Figure 9 Annular apodization mask fine-tunes the axial length and intensity distribution of Bessel foci.

(a-c) and (d-f): two NA-0.4 Bessel foci with different axial lengths and intensity distributions. (a,d) Binary concentric grating patterns (phase values: 0 and π) on SLM. S indicates the period of the gratings in units of pixels. (b,e) (Top) amplitude and (bottom) phase of the electric field of the light at the plane of the annular apodization mask (0.39 mm inner radius and 0.6 mm outer radius for b, 0.478 mm inner radius and 0.6 mm outer radius for e). Electric field within the annulus (areas between red dashed lines) was transmitted. (c,f) (Top) axial (xz) images of 2-μm-diameter fluorescent beads and (bottom) line intensity profiles along the z axis obtained with Bessel foci generated by a and b, d and e, respectively. (g) Simulated axial PSFs and (h) their intensity profiles along z as a function of annulus width of the apodization mask. Incidence beam diameter at SLM: 2.2 mm. Magnification from mask to objective back pupil: 4.7; Objective: Olympus 25×, 1.05 NA; Post-objective power: 14.2 mW and 15.5 mW for c and f, respectively; Wavelength: 900 nm; Scale bar: 10 μm. See Supplementary Technical Notes for more details.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figures 1–9 and Supplementary Tables 1–4 (PDF 2480 kb)

Supplementary Methods Checklist (PDF 398 kb)

Supplementary Technical Note

Supplementary Technical Note (PDF 567 kb)

Supplementary Software

Supplementary Software (ZIP 12 kb)

30 Hz Bessel volumetric imaging of calcium transients in sparsely labeled neurons in V1 of awake mouse.

GCaMP6s+ axons and dendrites in a 270 μm ×270 μm×60 μm volume (0-60 μm below pia) imaged at 30 Hz using Bessel focus scanning. Calcium transients were driven by drifting grating stimulation. Structures that appeared blurred were under blood vessels. (AVI 17818 kb)

Robustness of Bessel scanning against axial brain motion allows easy registration of volume images.

Unregistered (left panel, note large lateral motion) and registered (right panel) time-lapse Bessel scanning images of GCaMP6f+ dendritic branches in S1 of an awake mouse. 180 μm × 180 μm × 160 μm volume was imaged at 30 Hz rate. Registration was done with TurboReg plugin of ImageJ. (AVI 45330 kb)

Bessel focus scanning is more robust against axial motion artifacts than Gaussian focus scanning.

Unregistered (left panels, note large lateral motion) and registered (right panels) time-lapse Gaussian (top panels) and Bessel (bottom panels) focus scanning images of YFP+ dendritic branches in V1 of an awake mouse. Brain motion caused large focal shifts in Gaussian images, whereas dendrites imaged under Bessel mode remained in focus despite brain motion. Frame rate: 7.4 Hz. Bessel image volume: 80 μm × 40 μm × 25 μm. Registration was done with TurboReg plugin of ImageJ. (AVI 47666 kb)

Video summary of high-throughput volumetric functional mapping of single spines in mouse V1

A video that summarizes the experiment in Fig. 2 where Bessel scanning was used for high-throughput volumetric functional mapping of single spines. 3D Gaussian scanning revealed single spines on GCaMP6s+ dendrites 100-160 μm below pia in mouse V1, whereas Bessel scanning allowed us to image all these spines in one 2D scan and measure their visually-evoked calcium transients (ten-trial averaged) to 12 different drifting grating stimuli. (AVI 12081 kb)

Video summary of 30 Hz volumetric functional imaging of spinal projection neurons in zebrafish larvae.

A video that summarizes the experiment in Fig. 4 where Bessel scanning was used for functional imaging of spinal projection neurons in zebrafish larvae at 30 Hz. 3D Gaussian scanning recorded positions of spinal projection neurons in a 270 μm ×270 μm×100 μm volume, whereas Bessel scanning allowed us to image at 30 Hz their activity evoked by a mechanical and acoustic stimulus at 5-second mark. (AVI 16882 kb)

Volumetric functional imaging of a sparsely labeled fruit fly brain.

A video that summarizes the experiment in Figs. 5b-f. 3D Gaussian scanning recorded positions of GCaMP6f+ neurites around ellipsoid body in a 190 μm ×95 μm×60 μm volume, whereas Bessel scanning allowed us to image at 2.5 Hz their activity during the presentation of 12 different drifting grating stimuli (ten-trial averaged). (AVI 6464 kb)

Volumetric functional imaging of a densely labeled fruit fly brain.

A video that summarizes the experiment in Figs. 5g-i. 3D Gaussian scanning recorded fluorescence distribution in a fly brain with pan-neuronal expression of GCaMP6f over a 307 μm × 216 μm × 100 μm volume, whereas Bessel scanning allowed us to image at 3.6 Hz the calcium transients (ten-trial averaged) during the presentation of 12 different drifting grating stimuli. Calcium transients over mushroom bodies were evoked by both the appearance of new stationary gratings and the drifting movement of the gratings. (AVI 5519 kb)

Functional imaging of a densely labeled fruit fly brain in an optical section through the mushroom bodies.

A video that summarizes the experiment in Figs. 5j-k. Scanning a Gaussian focus across an optical section that includes the mushroom bodies, we observed in mushroom bodies calcium transients evoked by both the appearance of new stationary gratings and the drifting movement of the gratings. (AVI 3426 kb)

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Lu, R., Sun, W., Liang, Y. et al. Video-rate volumetric functional imaging of the brain at synaptic resolution. Nat Neurosci 20, 620–628 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4516

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