What is fluorescence microscopy?

Professor Jeff Lichtman introduces fluorescence microscopy, a powerful technique of illuminating minuscule molecules for analysis by very powerful microscopes.

There are many different ways one can image the brain and one of the most exciting is a method known as fluorescence microscopy. Fluorescence microscopy is a complicated term for really a very simple idea, which is that there are molecules that are made by people, and also molecules that show up in nature in which you can get them to give off light if you shine light on them of a different color. Some people may remember the good old days when people my age were in college, and in our dormitories we would have these posters on the wall and we would shine what is called a black light which is actually ultraviolet purple light that is very hard to see, on to these posters and these very bright colors like yellow, blue, and green would come out very bright even though we weren’t shining those colors on to these posters. And what that was occurring because of is the pigments in the posters were fluorescent. So if you shine a high energy light like ultraviolet light, on to a poster, these pigments then give off their native colors which is yellow, red, or blue in this intense color in a background that is quite dark. And it is exactly this idea that makes fluorescent microscopy a very powerful technique, because in a dark sample if cells or molecules inside the nervous system are tagged in a way that they are fluorescent then if you shine light of the right color on them they will bring out these very bright colors on a very dark background so you can see minuscule amounts of molecules or the structure of very small cells.

fluorescence, microscopy, fluorescent, microscope, molecules, light, jeff lichtman

Related Content

2054. Fluorescence microscopy - pros and cons

Professor Jeff Lichtman examines the technique of fluorescence microscopy in terms of its benefits (e.g. exquisite resolution) and its drawbacks (e.g. confined by the wavelength of light).

  • ID: 2054
  • Source: G2C

2055. Spatial resolution and neuroimaging

Professor Jeff Lichtman discusses spatial resolution in relation to a number of imaging techniques including MRI, fluorescence microscopy, and electron microscopy.

  • ID: 2055
  • Source: G2C

2061. Microscopes, nanoscopes, and finer resolution

Professor Jeff Lichtman examines the development of imaging technologies from the days of Cajal to the development of the nanoscope.

  • ID: 2061
  • Source: G2C

2063. The brainbow

Professor Jeff Lichtman describes the events leading to his team's development of the 'brainbow,' a new technique for staining cells.

  • ID: 2063
  • Source: G2C

2050. Fluorescent microscopy versus MRI

Professor Rusty Lansford compares fluorescent microscopy, which images at the molecular level, and MRI, which images at the cellular/neural level.

  • ID: 2050
  • Source: G2C

864. Imaging Technology

Images from brain scans and new microscopy techniques are offering a strikingly clear glimpse of what’s going on underneath the bumpy surface of our skulls.

  • ID: 864
  • Source: G2C

2048. Dynamic imaging and fluorescent microscopy

Professor Rusty Lansford explains that dynamic imaging is important because it allows researchers to examine active development rather than interpreting a series of snapshots.

  • ID: 2048
  • Source: G2C

2056. Temporal resolution and neuroimaging

Professor Jeff Lichtman discusses temporal resolution, the ability to see changes across time, in relation to various neuroimaging technologies.

  • ID: 2056
  • Source: G2C

16898. New York Stories: Martin Chalfie and Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)

New York high school students interview Nobel Laureate, Dr. Martin Chalfie of Columbia University, then perform the experiment with green fluorescent protein (GFP) that he pioneered.

  • ID: 16898
  • Source: DNALC

15562. Human chromosomes / karyotype (colored)

A portrait of human chromosomes: this process labels the chromosomes with multicolored fluorescent tags, allowing researchers to consistently distinguish between chromosomes.

  • ID: 15562
  • Source: DNAi