During acute neuroinflammation, increased levels of cytokines within the brain may contribute to synaptic reorganization that results in long-term changes in network hyperexcitability. Indeed, inflammatory cytokines are implicated in synaptic dysfunction in epilepsy and in an array of degenerative and autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system. Current tools for studying the impact of inflammatory factors on neural networks are either insufficiently fast and sensitive or require complicated and costly experimental rigs. Calcium imaging offers a reasonable surrogate for direct measurement of neuronal network activity, but traditional imaging paradigms are confounded by cellular heterogeneity and cannot readily distinguish between glial and neuronal calcium transients. While the establishment of pure neuron cultures is possible, the removal of glial cells ignores physiologically relevant cell-cell interactions that may be critical for circuit level disruptions induced by inflammatory factors. To overcome these issues, we provide techniques and algorithms for image processing and waveform feature extraction using automated analysis of spontaneous and evoked calcium transients in primary murine cortical neuron cultures transduced with an adeno-associated viral vector driving the GCaMP6f reporter behind a synapsin promoter. Using this system, we provide evidence of network perturbations induced by the inflammatory cytokines TNFα, IL1β, and IFNγ.
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