Rapid optical imaging of whisker responses in the rat barrel cortex

Joshua L. Dowling, Martin M. Henegar, Daqian Liu, Carl M. Rovainen, Thomas A. Woolsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Videomicroscopy was used to image 'intrinsic' responses over the rat barrel cortex through a closed cranial window during controlled whisker stimulation. With a Macintosh IIfx running Image 1.49 VDM, video frames from a CCD camera were captured and averaged before, during and after whisker stimulation. The technique presented here is a functional imaging modality - using conventional videomicroscopic equipment, a small computer, and public domain NIH Image software - with a temporal resolution of 33 ms. Images can be obtained directly from the CCD camera or recorded to videotape for post hoc analysis. Pixel by pixel comparison of prestimulation images to images obtained during stimulation revealed changes in the reflectance characteristics of cortex and vessels overlying the barrel field. Imaged responses superimposed on barrel histology to map intrinsic signal matched barrels of the stimulated whiskers in every case. Video imaging of the rat barrel cortex provides a useful method for rapid targeting for other experimental protocols and has potential for analyzing localized responses to physiologic stimuli in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-122
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1996


  • Barrel cortex
  • Cortical mapping
  • Optical imaging
  • Vibrissa


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