Investigation of Pain Mechanisms by Calcium Imaging Approaches

Michael Anderson, Qin Zheng, Xinzhong Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Due to the complex circuitry and plethora of cell types involved in somatosensation, it is becoming increasingly important to be able to observe cellular activity at the population level. In addition, since cells rely on an intricate variety of extracellular factors, it is important to strive to maintain the physiological environment. Many electrophysiological techniques require the implementation of artificially-produced physiological environments and it can be difficult to assess the activity of many cells simultaneously. Moreover, imaging Ca2+ transients using Ca2+-sensitive dyes often requires in vitro preparations or in vivo injections, which can lead to variable expression levels. With the development of more sensitive genetically-encoded Ca2+ indicators (GECIs) it is now possible to observe changes in Ca2+ transients in large populations of cells at the same time. Recently, groups have used a GECI called GCaMP to address fundamental questions in somatosensation. Researchers can now induce GCaMP expression in the mouse genome using viral or gene knock-in approaches and observe the activity of populations of cells in the pain pathway such as dorsal root ganglia (DRG), spinal neurons, or glia. This approach can be used in vivo and thus maintains the organism’s biological integrity. The implementation of GCaMP imaging has led to many advances in our understanding of somatosensation. Here, we review the current findings in pain research using GCaMP imaging as well as discussing potential methodological considerations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-199
Number of pages6
JournalNeuroscience Bulletin
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • DRG
  • GCaMP imaging
  • Neural circuit
  • Pain pathways
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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