Spatial Light Modulators for Complex Spatiotemporal Illumination of Neuronal Networks

  • Francesco Difato
  • Marco Dal Maschio
  • Riccardo Beltramo
  • Axel Blau
  • Fabio Benfenati
  • Tommaso Fellin
Part of the Neuromethods book series (NM, volume 67)


The introduction of fluorescent probes and light-sensitive molecules and the recent development of optogenetics are tremendously contributing to our understanding of neuronal circuit function. In parallel with the development of these optical tools, new technologies for the illumination of neural tissue with complex spatiotemporal patterns have been introduced. Here, we describe a method for generating spatially modulated illumination by using liquid crystal on silicon spatial light modulators (LCOS-SLMs). The theoretical background and the description of working principles of LCOS-SLMs are presented together with a detailed experimental procedure to install LCOS-SLMs on conventional two-photon laser scanning microscopes and perform experiments on neuronal cells. In combination with the development of light-sensitive proteins with cell-specific and subcellularly localized expression, this technical approach has the potential to open new horizons for the optical investigation of neuronal circuits.

Key words

Digital holography Structured light Two-photon microscopy Imaging Photostimulation Uncaging 



We thank Gian Michele Ratto for critical reading of the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from MIUR PRIN program to F. Benfenati, Telethon-Italy (GGP09134 to F. Benfenati and GGP10138 to T. Fellin), and by the San Paolo “Programma in Neuroscienze” grant to F. Benfenati and T. Fellin.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Difato
    • 1
  • Marco Dal Maschio
    • 1
  • Riccardo Beltramo
    • 1
  • Axel Blau
    • 1
  • Fabio Benfenati
    • 1
  • Tommaso Fellin
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Neuroscience and Brain TechnologiesItalian Institute of TechnologyGenoaItaly

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