Direct measurement of neuronal ensemble activity using photoacoustic imaging in the stimulated Fos-LacZ transgenic rat brain: A proof-of-principle study

Measuring neuroactivity underlying complex behaviors facilitates understanding the microcircuitry that supports these behaviors. We have developed a functional and molecular photoacoustic tomography (F/M-PAT) system which allows direct imaging of Fos-expressing neuronal ensembles in Fos-LacZ transgenic rats with a large field-of-view and high spatial resolution. F/M-PAT measures the beta-galactosidase catalyzed enzymatic product of exogenous chromophore X-gal within ensemble neurons. We used an ex vivo imaging method in the Wistar Fos-LacZ transgenic rat, to detect neuronal ensembles in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) following cocaine administration or a shock-tone paired stimulus. Robust and selective F/M-PAT signal was detected in mPFC neurons after both conditions (compare to naive controls) demonstrating successful and direct detection of Fos-expressing neuronal ensembles using this approach. The results of this study indicate that F/M-PAT can be used in conjunction with Fos-LacZ rats to monitor neuronal ensembles that underlie a range of behavioral processes, such as fear learning or addiction.

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