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Direnberger, Stephan; Banchi, Roberto; Brosel, Sonja; Seebacher, Christian; Laimgruber, Stefan; Uhl, Rainer; Felmy, Felix; Straka, Hans ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2874-0441 and Kunz, Lars ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3141-0005 (2015): Analysis of signal processing in vestibular circuits with a novel light-emitting diodes-based fluorescence microscope. In: European Journal of Neuroscience (EJN), Vol. 41, No. 10: pp. 1332-1344

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Optical visualization of neural network activity is limited by imaging system-dependent technical tradeoffs. To overcome these constraints, we have developed a powerful low-cost and flexible imaging system with high spectral variability and unique spatio-temporal precision for simultaneous optical recording and manipulation of neural activity of large cell groups. The system comprises eight high-power light-emitting diodes, a camera with a large metal-oxide-semiconductor sensor and a high numerical aperture water-dipping objective. It allows fast and precise control of excitation and simultaneous low noise imaging at high resolution. Adjustable apertures generated two independent areas of variable size and position for simultaneous optical activation and image capture. The experimental applicability of this system was explored in semi-isolated preparations of larval axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) with intact inner ear organs and central nervous circuits. Cyclic galvanic stimulation of semicircular canals together with glutamate- and -aminobutyric acid (GABA)-uncaging caused a corresponding modulation of Ca2+ transients in central vestibular neurons. These experiments revealed specific cellular properties as well as synaptic interactions between excitatory and inhibitory inputs, responsible for spatio-temporal-specific sensory signal processing. Location-specific GABA-uncaging revealed a potent inhibitory shunt of vestibular nerve afferent input in the predominating population of tonic vestibular neurons, indicating a considerable impact of local and commissural inhibitory circuits on the processing of head/body motion-related signals. The discovery of these previously unknown properties of vestibular computations demonstrates the merits of our novel microscope system for experimental applications in the field of neurobiology.

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