Dense arrays of micro-needles for recording and electrical stimulation of neural activity in acute brain slices

Deborah E Gunning, John M Beggs, Wladeslaw Dabrowski, Pawel Hottowy, Christopher J Kenney, Alexander Sher, Alan M Litke, Keith Mathieson

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This paper describes the design, microfabrication, electrical characterization and biological evaluation of a high-density micro-needle array. The array records from and electrically stimulates individual neurons simultaneously in acute slices of brain tissue.
Acute slices, arguably the closest in-vitro model of the brain, have a damaged surface layer. Since electrophysiological recording methods rely heavily on electrode-cell proximity, this layer significantly attenuates the signal amplitude making the use of traditional planar electrodes unsuitable. To penetrate into the tissue, bypassing the tissue surface, and to record and stimulate neural activity in the healthy interior volume of the slice, an array of 61 micro-needles was fabricated.
This device is shown to record extracellular action potentials from individual neurons in acute cortical slices with a signal to noise ratio of up to ∼15:1. Electrical stimulation of individual neurons is achieved with stimulation thresholds of 1.1-2.9 µA.
The novelty of this system is the combination of close needle spacing (60 µm), needle heights of up to 250 µm and small (5-10 µm diameter) electrodes allowing the recording of single unit activity. The array is coupled to a custom-designed readout system forming a powerful electrophysiological tool that permits two-way electrode-cell communication with populations of neurons in acute brain slices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number016007
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number1
Early online date12 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • dense arrays
  • micro-needles
  • recording
  • electrical stimulation
  • neural activity
  • acute brain slices

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