In neurons, calcium is the ultimate multitasker. It helps propagate electrical signals down axons. It triggers synaptic terminals to dump their cargo of neurotransmitters into synapses. And, if that’s not enough, it’s also involved in memory formation, metabolism, and cell growth.
Watching the ebb and flow of calcium ions gives scientists an idea of what’s happening in neurons. To do that, they use special fluorescent molecules that glow when they link up with calcium. This image shows a neuron cell body aglow with calcium.
Ali, F., & Kwan, A. C. (2019). Interpreting in vivo calcium signals from neuronal cell bodies, axons, and dendrites: A review. Neurophotonics, 7(01), 1. doi: 10.1117/1.NPh.7.1.011402
Kawamoto, E. M., Vivar, C., & Camandola, S. (2012). Physiology and Pathology of Calcium Signaling in the Brain. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 3. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2012.00061