Walk outside on a clear summer twilight and you might see hundreds of minute lights spark and glow. Together, fireflies, which produce chemical light through bioluminescence, display a celestial pattern unlike anything on earth. Or, more precisely, unlike anything visible to our unassisted eyes.
In a darkness deeper than those summer twilights, our neurons fire and glow in a similar stellar dance. Now, with Firefly, a new microscope from the Cohen Lab, we can watch neurons pulse, communicate, and shine. The image is at once beautiful and invaluable — it could illuminate how disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease affect neuron communication and thus enable researchers to discover how to prevent and treat a host of neurological diseases.