The process of brain edema formation has been studied extensively at the macroscopic level. In contrast, little is known about water fluxes and volume changes at the cellular level in the initial phase of brain edema. Insight in these “microscopic” events could pave the way for more efficient prevention and therapy. Here, we report measurements of brain cell volume responses recorded in vivo in a model of systemic hyponatremia. Transgenic mice expressing fluorescent proteins in astrocytes were subjected to hypo-osmotic stress and two photon laser scanning microscopy. Volume measurements of glial cells in the cerebellum and the visual cortex indicate that individual astrocytes undergo a position-dependent increase in cell volume by a factor of two or more during edema formation. Our data are the first to show that volume changes can be monitored at the cellular level in vivo and demonstrate that astrocytes are sites of water entry in the initial phase of brain edema formation. The uptake of water in astrocytes is likely to reflect the strong expression of aquaporin-4 in these cells. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.