All-optical registration of neuronal and astrocytic activities within the intact mammalian brain has improved significantly with recent advances in optical sensors and biophotonics. However, relating single-synapse release events and local astroglial responses to sensory stimuli in an intact animal has not hitherto been feasible. Here, we present a multiplexed multiphoton excitation imaging approach for assessing the relationship between presynaptic Ca2+ entry at thalamocortical axonal boutons and perisynaptic astrocytic Ca2+ elevations, induced by whisker stimulation in the barrel cortex of C57BL/6 mice. We find that, unexpectedly, Ca2+ elevations in the perisynaptic astrocytic regions consistently precede local presynaptic Ca2+ signals during spontaneous brain activity associated with anaesthesia. The methods described here can be adapted to a variety of optical sensors and are compatible with experimental designs that might necessitate repeated sampling of single synapses over a longitudinal behavioural paradigm.
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