A Polished and Reinforced Thinned-skull Window for Long-term Imaging of the Mouse Brain

In vivo imaging of cortical function requires optical access to the brain without disruption of the intracranial environment. We present a method to form a polished and reinforced thinned skull (PoRTS) window in the mouse skull that spans several millimeters in diameter and is stable for months. The skull is thinned to 10 to 15 μm in thickness with a hand held drill to achieve optical clarity, and is then overlaid with cyanoacrylate glue and a cover glass to: 1) provide rigidity, 2) inhibit bone regrowth and 3) reduce light scattering from irregularities on the bone surface. Since the skull is not breached, any inflammation that could affect the process being studied is greatly reduced. Imaging depths of up to 250 μm below the cortical surface can be achieved using two-photon laser scanning microscopy. This window is well suited to study cerebral blood flow and cellular function in both anesthetized and awake preparations. It further offers the opportunity to manipulate cell activity using optogenetics or to disrupt blood flow in targeted vessels by irradiation of circulating photosensitizers.

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