Optogenetic Interrogation of Electrophysiological Dendritic Properties and Their Effect on Pacemaking Neurons from Acute Rodent Brain Slices

Naomi Gilin, Nadine Wattad, Lior Tiroshi*, Joshua A. Goldberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding dendritic excitability is essential for a complete and precise characterization of neurons’ input-output relationships. Theoretical and experimental work demonstrates that the electrotonic and nonlinear properties of dendrites can alter the amplitude (e.g., through amplification) and latency of synaptic inputs as viewed in the axosomatic region where spike timing is determined. The gold-standard technique to study dendritic excitability is using dual-patch recordings with a high-resistance electrode used to patch a piece of distal dendrite in addition to a somatic patch electrode. However, this approach is often impractical when distal dendrites are too fine to patch. Therefore, we developed a technique that utilizes the expression of Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to study dendritic excitability in acute brain slices through the combination of a somatic patch electrode and optogenetic activation. The protocol describes how to prepare acute slices from mice that express ChR2 in specific cell types, and how to use two modes of light stimulation: proximal (which activates the soma and proximal dendrites in a ~100 µm diameter surrounding the soma) with the use of a high-magnification objective and full-field stimulation through a low-magnification objective (which activates the entire somato-dendritic field of the neuron). We use this technique in conjunction with various stimulation protocols to estimate model-based spectral components of dendritic filtering and the impact of dendrites on phase response curves, peri-stimulus time histograms, and entrainment of pacemaking neurons. This technique provides a novel use of optogenetics to study intrinsic dendritic excitability through the use of standard patch-clamp slice physiology.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere4992
Issue number10
StatePublished - 20 May 2024

Bibliographical note

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Copyright: © 2024 The Authors; exclusive licensee Bio-protocol LLC.


  • Acute brain slice
  • Dendrites
  • Entrainment
  • Optogenetics
  • Pacemaking neurons
  • Perforated patch
  • Phase resetting
  • Whole-cell patch clamp


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