Electrophysiology - Techniques (1)

Professor Tom O'Dell describes different techniques for studying the physiology of the nervous system.

In our experiments, when we are interested in studying the electrophysiology, or the physiology of the nervous system, basically we study the electrical activity of neurons. When neurons are active, they generate electrical signals. And those signals in turn, code information, but also pass information on to other cells. So, we use a lot of very sophisticated electrical techniques that allow us to monitor these minute electrical signals that are associated with single cells. That then enables us to get a window, a picture, of what the cells are doing – how they’re encoding the information and then transmitting that information. Often, what we do is to use pieces of the brain, thin slices of the brain, that we keep alive in a dish and monitor the electrical activity of those cells over time. We can also do things where we have cells that are kept alive for very long periods of time – in culture, or in thicker pieces of tissue as well. In those sorts of reduced preparations, where we have isolated circuits, or groups of cells, that allows us to study the elementary properties of the electrical activity of those cells, which is so crucial to what they normally do in the brain.

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