One of the first weeks in my PhD lab, miniature microscope inventor Dr. Mark Schnitzer came to show us his dazzling new advancement for in vivo calcium imaging of brain circuits. I will never forget seeing videos of neurons lighting up like fireflies in a freely moving mouse. Even more astounding was the cell-type -specificity with which these neurons were targeted and the ability to track their activity across several days! In that instant I knew I wanted to learn this technique and the incredible value it would add to my doctoral research on projection-specific neural circuit dynamics . However, there was one (BIG) problem: our lab wasn’t equipped with this technology and no one had experience with calcium imaging.
Whether you’re a well-established PI or an early-stage graduate student, setting up a brand new technique in the lab is a daunting task. Personally, I was terrified and apprehensive about my abilities to help establish calcium imaging as a bread-and-butter laboratory tool. Fast-forward to the present, my thesis project includes not one, but TWO Inscopix tools (nVista and nVoke) and is close to publication! So if you are thinking about adding miniature microscopy to your toolbox, let me outline how Inscopix made my PhD easier and how the company can help fast-track your scientific breakthroughs.
GCaMP-expressing neurons (green) in the prefrontal cortex surrounded by dopamine terminals (red).
Plug-and-Play: Because Data is the Prize
We all know that in vivo circuit neuroscience is challenging to begin with, and getting to data and scientific insights often seems like a distant dream. Inscopix is about as plug-and-play as you can get, so now is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Moreover, the company which spun out of Dr. Schnitzer’s lab around 7 years ago has enabled over 50+ peer-reviewed publications. As a result, they are EXPERTS in miniature microscopy and they have amalgamated all their experience with different labs into creating fail-proof pipelines, training workshops, and also a library of detailed protocols and video tutorials for many avenues of research in circuit and systems neuroscience.
Inscopix Scientific Support: An Extension of Your Team
But what makes Inscopix truly unique and special is that they will do whatever it takes to make you scientifically successful. When we first got our scopes, two experts visited our lab to provide full training— from surgical preparations, indicator selection, to acquisition and analysis.
Now as Inscopix has grown, the company has an official Field Scientific Consultants (FSCs) program, which provides expert-level consultants who visit your lab to ensure the success of your research. FSCs at Inscopix are PhD trained neuroscientists with experience using Inscopix tech in a laboratory setting. Once you get their systems, FSCs make visits to your lab upon request and assist with set-up, experimental design, data analysis, and more.. Think of it as having an experienced senior research scientist whose priority is to make sure your experiments are efficient and optimized from the very beginning. The more incredible thing: FSCs are FREE to the Inscopix community! I am hard-pressed to find a company that provides such an incredible service to their customers. To learn more about FSCs and how they can help: /blog
Uh oh…. HELP! SOS!
Of course, most scientific endeavors are filled with unforeseen obstacles, technical difficulties, and Reviewer #3s. My story is no different. I’ve sent desperate e-mails asking for assistance with data acquisition and analysis, only to be met with solutions delivered calmly and quickly by my knowledgeable support team at Inscopix’s Mountain View headquarters (Thanks Alice Stamatakis & Lara Cardy!!). Inscopix customer support really does go above and beyond, but don’t just take it from me….