Quantitative assessment of neural outgrowth using spatial light interference microscopy

Young Jae Lee, Pati Cintora, Jyothi Arikkath, Olaoluwa Akinsola, Mikhail Kandel, Gabriel Popescu, Catherine Best-Popescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Optimal growth as well as branching of axons and dendrites is critical for the nervous system function. Neuritic length, arborization, and growth rate determine the innervation properties of neurons and define each cell's computational capability. Thus, to investigate the nervous system function, we need to develop methods and instrumentation techniques capable of quantifying various aspects of neural network formation: Neuron process extension, retraction, stability, and branching. During the last three decades, fluorescence microscopy has yielded enormous advances in our understanding of neurobiology. While fluorescent markers provide valuable specificity to imaging, photobleaching, and photoxicity often limit the duration of the investigation. Here, we used spatial light interference microscopy (SLIM) to measure quantitatively neurite outgrowth as a function of cell confluence. Because it is label-free and nondestructive, SLIM allows for long-term investigation over many hours. We found that neurons exhibit a higher growth rate of neurite length in low-confluence versus mediumand high-confluence conditions. We believe this methodology will aid investigators in performing unbiased, nondestructive analysis of morphometric neuronal parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number066015
JournalJournal of biomedical optics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Quantitative image analysis
  • neurite outgrowth
  • neuroinformatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Biomaterials
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biomedical Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantitative assessment of neural outgrowth using spatial light interference microscopy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this