Electrophysiology - Techniques (2)

Professor Tom O'Dell introduces some of the advanced techniques used to examine the electrical activity of brain cells.

The techniques that are used for recording from cells happen at many, many different levels. Many of the techniques that are used now – some of the techniques that are used to record population responses from groups of cells, so called extracellular recordings, or even extracellular recording from individual cells – those are techniques that have been around since the fifties and sixties, and are still an important component of contemporary laboratories. Those are still important, obviously, but there are many other techniques that have come along since then. One very important technique is called whole cell recording. In that technique, a single class microelectrode can be positioned or placed onto the membrane of the cell. Under the right conditions, one can record individually from just that single neuron. That allows one to do many, many experiments and to record at a resolution that one would never have been able to do with some of these older techniques. Some of the more recent approaches are using, again, extracellular recordings, but doing them in sort of a massive array that allows one not only to study a small population of maybe 10, or 20, or 50 cells at a time, or one at a time, but hundreds of neurons at a time. Even in awake and behaving animals, so that we can look at a vast array of neurons and see what they are doing during certain behavioral tasks, or under different sensory conditions. In other words, to get a way to look at a large population code of sensory experience, or cognitive activity in the brain. So the techniques that one uses runs the gamut from things that are very old (sort of coarse but still very useful) to newer techniques that are much finer in resolution, but then also other techniques that are much broader and give us a bigger picture of activity in the brain.

electrophysiology, technique, recording, electrode, microelectrode, single, cell, neuron, electrical, tom, o'dell, dell

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