Neurophotonics Lab

Department                           Imaging Physics

Principal investigator           Daan Brinks

E-mail address             



Creating sensors for Voltage imaging

Supervisor: Marco Post,

Voltage imaging allows recording fast electrical dynamics of many neurons in parallel and is set to revolutionize our understanding of network dynamics, plasticity and memory formation in the brain.

One of the projects in my lab tackles the challenge voltage imaging deep in the living brain. For this, we evolve fluorescent voltage sensitive proteins optimized for multiphoton imaging, using a new single-cell selection technique. This allows us to screen mutant libraries of proteins directly for brightness, voltage sensitivity, and membrane trafficking in neurons. We have projects involving research into the molecular biology of the protein engineering, computational evolution, the photocycle dynamics of different families of proteins and their application in vitro and in vivo to answer fundamental biophysical and neuroscience questions.


  • Molecular biology (cell culture, microscopy, molecular techniques, etc.)
  • Computational biology (Monte Carlo simulations, deep learning based image analysis, etc.)

Further reading

Adam, Y., et al. (2019). Nature, 569(7756), 413-417. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1166-7.

Meng, X., et al. (2023). ACS Physical Chemistry, 3(4), 320-333. DOI: 10.1021/acsphyschemau.3c00003.


Absolute voltage imaging for investigation of embryonic development

Supervisor: Zhenzhen Wu,

We’re interested in  the possible effect of membrane voltage changes on embryonic development. For this, we develop a technique called absolute voltage imaging that allows tracking of subtle changes in membrane voltage in groups of cells as they undergo specialization, for instance in developing zebrafish embryos. We have projects involving the creation of new sensors, investigating their trafficking behavior in zebrafish, and acquiring and analyzing this new type of data.


  • Cloning
  • Fluorescence lifetime imaging
  • Data processing
  • Zebrafish embryos

Further reading

Brinks, D., et al. (2015). Biophysical journal, 109(5), 914–921. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.07.038.


Nanoscopic optogenetics

Supervisor: Qiangrui Dong,

We’re  interested in nanoscopic imaging of activity at synapses. We are looking into different ways of enhancing the signals of fluorescent voltage sensing proteins at synapses with a combination of genetic and chemical technologies on the one hand, and nanoparticles and plasmonics on the other hand. The BEP/MEP projects here focus molecular biology and biochemistry, for instance testing linkage of nanoparticles to membrane proteins.


  • Organic chemistry
  • Cloning
  • Cell and tissue engineering
  • Fluorescence imaging

Further reading

Locarno, M. & Brinks, D. (2023). American Journal of Physics, 91, 538. DOI: 10.1119/5.0094967.


Simulations and machine learning for voltage imaging

Supervisor: Rui Silva, Alejandro Castaneda, Laurens Engwegen

The lab has a theoretical branch where we develop Machine learning/AI algorithms to analyze the rich multidimensional data voltage imaging provides. we develop automated protocols to address excitable tissue to learn about, manipulate and implant electrical dynamics; and we model neural dynamics to understand the effect disease models have on the electrical dynamics we can observe with voltage imaging.


  • Reinforcement learning
  • Physics-based AI
  • Mathematical models of (networks of) neurons