The atomic force microscope (AFM) was used to directly image hippocampal neurons and glia. Using chemically fixed and living cells it was possible to reconstruct three-dimensional cell structure and detect sub-cellular features such as the nucleus, mitochondria and filaments. By repeatedly scanning a single living cell we observed the movement of filaments beneath the cell membrane. Furthermore, by controlling the force applied to the scanning tip, nanosurgery was performed to selectively remove cells from the culture substratum. Thus, the atomic force microscope offers the opportunity to gain three-dimensional information about living cells and to observe the behavior of cellular components by imaging through the intact cell membrane.