Fluorescent molecular rotors (FMR) have wide range of applications due to high sensitivity of their emission intensity to microenvironment viscosity. Thioflavin T (ThT), which exhibits FMR properties, is widely used as fluorescent probe for in vitro detection of amyloid fibrils (AF) due to its high affinity and “light-up” feature (fluorescence quantum yield of ThT changes by ∼3 orders of magnitude upon binding to AF). At physiological pH, ThT is positively charged and, therefore, it does not cross blood-brain barrier (BBB). It has been proposed that neutral derivatives of ThT are more likely to cross BBB, which should make them suitable for in vivo applications. However, for in vivo applications as fluorescent imaging agents, the neutral ThT derivatives must retain the FMR properties of ThT. In this paper, we examined whether neutral ThT derivatives exhibit FMR properties by studying the effect of solvent viscosity on their fluorescence intensity and decay lifetime. We observed that while the cationic ThT derivatives possess FMR properties, the neutral forms behave as regular highly-emitting fluorophores. Further, quantum chemical calculations in gas phase showed significant differences in the shape of excited state potential energy surfaces for the neutral and cationic derivatives of ThT. While, for charged ThT derivatives, the E(S1*) energy is minimal for the twisted conformation with dihedral angle φ = 90° between molecular fragments, the coplanar conformation with φ = 0° (or 180°) is more favorable for the neutral derivatives. From our experimental and theoretical studies we conclude that the neutral ThT derivatives lack FMR properties as their photoexcitation does not induce twisting motion coupled with internal charge transfer and, therefore, their specificity as fluorescent imaging agents for AF detection is lower than that of parent ThT. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.