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Information within the brain travels from neuron to neuron across synapses. At any given moment, only a few synapses within billions will be active and are thought to transmit key information about the environment, a behavior being executed or memory being recalled. Here we present SynTagMA, which marks active synapses within a ~2 s time window. Upon violet illumination, the genetically expressed tag converts from green to red fluorescence if bound to calcium. Targeted to presynaptic terminals, preSynTagMA allows discrimination between active and silent axons. Targeted to excitatory postsynapses, postSynTagMA creates a snapshot of synapses active just before photoconversion. To analyze large datasets, we developed an analysis program that automatically identifies and tracks the fluorescence of thousands of individual synapses in tissue. Together, these tools provide a high throughput method for repeatedly mapping active synapses in vitro and in vivo.
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