Cortical dendritic spine heads are not electrically isolated by the spine neck from membrane potential signals in parent dendrites.
Electrochronic membrane probes display a spectroscopic response to membrane potential by a direct electronic mechanism. This allows such probes to be designed a priori via quantum-chemical techniques. The detailed behavior of potentiometric optical probes can be elucidated with an apparatus based on phase-sensitive detection from a hemispherical lipid bilayer; several different types of response spectra can be obtained with this apparatus allowing distinction between the electrochromic mechanism and the more common molecular-motion based mechanisms. The development of 'fast' potentiometric dyes has now reached a stage where practical and exciting applications are rapidly appearing. It is anticipated that the emergence of a complementary set of electrochromic probes will lead to new applications; in particular, it may be possible to elucidate the molecular events which underlie biological or physiological phenomena.