Multiple Electrode Arrays

Professor Tom O'Dell explains how multiple electrode arrays are being used to study electrical activity in the brain.

These multiple electrode arrays look like they’re going to be very, very useful. Basically, a thin slice of brain tissue, surprisingly enough, can be kept alive outside the brain for many, many hours if the conditions are right. And those thin slices of tissue can actually now be placed on an array of microelectrodes. Each of those electrodes on this array can either be used to stimulate electrically, to activate activity in a little area of the slice, and all of the other electrodes can then be used to record what happens when those small populations of cells are recorded. Or vice-versa, you can look at many different areas. And again, this is the type of approach that brings together two really powerful techniques. One is being able to record multiple populations of cells all at the same time – to get a bigger picture of what the brain is doing. But it also has the power of being in a dish – as we would call it in vitro – so it is a thin piece of tissue sitting in a dish. So it is very easy now to do things such as pharmacological manipulations, to combine the electrical recordings with optical studies of activity. So it adds another layer of complexity, but also another layer of power in terms of what one can do in looking at the behavior of cells in semi-intact circuits.

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