Neural computations underlying sensory perception, cognition, and motor control are performed by populations of neurons at different anatomical and temporal scales. Few techniques are currently available for exploring the dynamics of local and large range populations. Voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDI), based on organic voltage probes, reveals neural population activity in areas ranging from a few tens of micrometers to a couple of centimeters, or two areas up to ~10 cm apart. VSDI provides a submillisecond temporal resolution and a spatial resolution of ~50 µm. The dye signal emphasizes subthreshold synaptic potentials. VSDI has been applied in the mouse, rat, gerbil, ferret, tree shrew, cat, and monkey cortices to explore the lateral spread of retinotopic or somatotopic activation; the dynamic spatiotemporal pattern resulting from sensory activation, includ- ing the somatosensory, olfactory, auditory, and visual modalities; and motor preparation and the properties of spontaneously occurring population activity. In this introduction, we focus on VSDI in vivo and review results obtained mostly in the visual system in our laboratory.
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