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The NeuroCCD series of cameras is ideal for low and medium light level measurements. They are used to study intrinsic imaging signals and a wide range of dye stained preparations: from filled single cells through preparations stained by transported dye to stained tissue slices.
The NeuroCCD-SMQ camera is capable of recording action potential propagation in individual neurons with outstanding temporal resolution:
80 x 80 pixels
Full-frame rate: 2,000 fps
3x3-binning rate: 5,000 fps
Read Noise
  2,000 Hz:
1,000 Hz:
125 Hz:
40 Hz:
12 e-
8 e-
4 e-
3 e-

Large well size : 215,000 e-
Very short frame shift time : 7 microsecs
Uses the outstanding Marconi CCD39-01 chip
Digitization: 14 bits standard, 16 bits optional (slower frame rate)
Back-Illuminated for high quantum efficiency (80% at 400-600nm, 75% at 650nm)
Cooled for low dark noise
No fan; avoids vibrations
Simultaneous optical and 8 channels of electrical recording
Optical coupler to reduce objective image to the size of the CCD chip
Comprehensive, user-friendly software designed for neurobiologists, physiologists and biophysicists
Computer control of shutter and stimulator.

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Use with confocal microscope

The NeuroCCD-smq and NeuroPlex software have been implemented to work with the Prairie Technologies Swept Field Confocal (SFC). The SFC is a high-speed scanned line confocal scanner which can run as fast as 3 Kfps. The SFC also works as a point scanner at up to 125 fps. In the integrated system, the SFC, the NeuroCCD camera and the electrical recording are all synchronized frame-by-frame at every frame rate and configuration. The usual NeuroPlex software analysis features can be applied to the resulting images. To find out more about SFC, please visit
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Optimal Use of the CCD Camera
The S/N ratio at moderate and high light levels is the square root of the light intensity. To increase the S/N one should pump in (and collect) as much light as possible at the lowest gain (1X). Only at this gain (1X) one uses the full well-size of the CCD and this is the preferred mode of measurement for most bath-stained tissue, such as brain slices and cardiac preparations. The saturation at higher gains (>=3X) is probably amplifier saturation. If saturation occurs at 1X, try to use a higher frame rate (up to 2KHz for the NeuroCCD-SMQ, 100Hz for the NeuroCCD-SM256, unbinned). This will allow emptying the CCD wells faster, thus avoid saturation w/o losing light. One can temporally bin the data later to increase the S/N ratio. If saturation still occurs when using the highest frame rate, one will have to reduce the illumination. Higher gains should be used at dim light levels to better utilize the 14-bit digitization.

We strongly recommend reserving the computer which comes with NeuroCCD-SMQ or NeuroCCD-SM256 for this function only. The reasons are two-fold. First, data acquisition places large demands on the computer's resources (22 Mbytes per second data transfer at 2.0 kHz frame rate). Second, it is very difficult for RedShirtImaging to troubleshoot any problems that might arise when attempts are made to add additional hardware and software. Two examples follow:

First, we installed an Imagenation PX-500-10 frame grabber in the same computer with NeuroCCD-SM. This caused NeuroCCD-SMQ to miss frames at 1.0 kHz. We presume that this is a solvable problem (but not with our level of expertise at PC administration).

Second, a user tried to install a SCSI card. This generated a conflict with the a-to-d interrupt request and the SCSI installation did not work. Then uninstalling the SCSI left the a-to-d card non-functional.

A shutter which can be driven by a 5-volt pulse should be available; shutter opens at 5 volts, closes at 0 volts. In addition to limiting the amount of photo-toxicity, the use of a shutter is essential for some frequently used features of the software. We use shutter drivers and shutters from Vincent Associates. Choose a shutter opening that is larger than the diameter of the incident light beam. We mount the shutter independently of the microscope so that its vibration does not affect the recording.

IDL licensing
The NeuroPlex software is written on an IDL platform. A full IDL license is supplied with our cameras allowing the end user to modify or add functionality. We encourage users who are interested in modifying the software to contact us first.

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