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Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) are important cell surface receptors that transduce extracellular signals across the plasma membrane. The traditional view of how these receptors function is that ligand binding to the extracellular domains acts as a master-switch that enables receptor monomers to dimerize and subsequently trans-phosphorylate each other on their intracellular domains. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that receptor oligomerization is not merely a consequence of ligand binding, but is instead part of a complex process responsible for regulation of receptor activation. Importantly, the oligomerization dynamics and subsequent activation of these receptors are affected by other cellular components, such as cytoskeletal machineries and cell membrane lipid characteristics. Thus receptor activation is not an isolated molecular event mediated by the ligand-receptor interaction, but instead involves orchestrated interactions between the receptors and other cellular components. Measuring receptor oligomerization dynamics on live cells can yield important insights into the characteristics of these interactions. Therefore, it is imperative to develop techniques that can probe receptor movements on the plasma membrane with optimal temporal and spatial resolutions. Various microscopic techniques have been used for this purpose. Optical techniques including single molecule tracking (SMT) and fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) measure receptor diffusion on live cells. Receptor-receptor interactions can also be assessed by detecting Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) between fluorescently-labeled receptors situated in close proximity or by counting the number of receptors within a diffraction limited fluorescence spot (stepwise bleaching). This review will describe recent developments of optical techniques that have been used to study receptor oligomerization on living cells. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Interactions between membrane receptors in cellular membranes edited by Kalina Hristova.