Monitoring the electrical activity of neurons is considered the fundamental way to understand how information is encoded and handled in the brain. Metallic microelectrodes are still the most employed methods to detect neuron signals in-vivo, although low signal quality is observed due to poor extracellular coupling.
Techniques able to collect quasi-intracellular signal while keeping the electrode external to the cell are being developed to improve sensitivity to action potentials and sub-threshold events. Three-dimensional metallic nanostructures mimicking dendritic spines are prone to be naturally engulfed by invertebrate neurons, which tightly seal to them thus improving the external coupling between membrane and electrode.
We are currently developing micro - and nanostructured three-dimensional protrusions on multielectrode arrays by means of electron and ion beam assisted deposition, which are being tested in collaboration with NBT department. This approach allows a high degree of freedom in testing different sizes and shapes, a crucial step to enable recording of electrical activity from cultured networks of smaller mammalian neurons with improved sensitivity.
Related CBN publications
L. Martiradonna et al. Microelectron. Eng. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mee.2012.03.027
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