We constructed a simple and compact imaging system designed specifically for the recording of fast neuronal activity in a 3D volume. The system uses an Yb:KYW femtosecond laser we designed for use with acousto-optic deflection. An integrated two-axis acousto-optic deflector, driven by digitally synthesized signals, can target locations in three dimensions. Data acquisition and the control of scanning are performed by a LeCroy digital oscilloscope. The total cost of construction was one order of magnitude lower than that of a typical Ti:sapphire system. The entire imaging apparatus, including the laser, fits comfortably onto a small rig for electrophysiology. Despite the low cost and simplicity, the convergence of several new technologies allowed us to achieve the following capabilities: i) full-frame acquisition at video rates suitable for patch clamping; ii) random access in under ten microseconds with dwelling ability in the nominal focal plane; iii) three-dimensional random access with the ability to perform fast volume sweeps at kilohertz rates; and iv) fluorescence lifetime imaging. We demonstrate the ability to record action potentials with high temporal resolution using intracellularly loaded potentiometric dye di-2-ANEPEQ. Our design proffers easy integration with electrophysiology and promises a more widespread adoption of functional two-photon imaging as a tool for the study of neuronal activity. The software and firmware we developed is available for download at http://neurospy.org/ under an open source license.
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