New probes developed to offer precise monitoring of brain activity

Engineering

Researchers have developed new probe technology that can be used to provide clearer monitoring of the activity of complex neural networks controlling behaviour and decision-making.

A team from University College London have created tiny silicon probes called Neuropixels that can simultaneously record the activity of hundreds of neurons across multiple different brain regions.

“Tiny silicon probes have been created to monitor the activity of hundreds of neurons and produce a better understanding of complex neural networks.“

Each probe measures 10mm in length and is only 70 by 20 micrometers wide, with 100 recording sites per mm. They are able to automatically transform any electrical signals they detect into digital data, ready for computational analysis.

They offer 960 recording sites distributed across large parts of the brain, enabling researchers to record from more neurons simultaneously than ever before, and are to be made available at cost price to neuroscientists across the globe.

Study co-author Professor Matteo Carandini of the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology, said: "These probes are a game changer. If you place them appropriately, you can really study how different parts of the brain work together at the neuronal level."

It is hoped that the technology can be used to help researchers understand how disorders such as depression or Alzheimer's can alter the neural circuits in the brain.

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