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The ultimate goal of neuroscience is to relate the complex activity of cells and cell-networks to behavior and cognition. This requires tools and techniques to visualize neuronal activity. Fluorescence microscopy is an ideal tool to measure activity of cells in the brain due to the high sensitivity of the technique and the growing portfolio of optical hardware and fluorescent sensors. Here, we give a chemist's perspective on the recent progress of fluorescent activity indicators that enable the measurement of cellular events in the living brain. We discuss advances in both chemical and genetically encoded sensors and look forward to hybrid indicators, which incorporate synthetic organic dyes into genetically encoded protein constructs.