Neurobiological processes occur on spatiotemporal scales spanning many orders of magnitude. Greater understanding of these processes therefore demands improvements in the tools used in their study. Here we review recent efforts to enhance the speed and resolution of one such tool, fluorescence microscopy, with an eye toward its application to neurobiological problems. On the speed front, improvements in beam scanning technology, signal generation rates, and photodamage mediation are bringing us closer to the goal of real-time functional imaging of extended neural networks. With regard to resolution, emerging methods of adaptive optics may lead to diffraction-limited imaging or much deeper imaging in optically inhomogeneous tissues, and super-resolution techniques may prove a powerful adjunct to electron microscopic methods for nanometric neural circuit reconstruction.
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