The researchers have developed a special nanoelectrode chip to record the simultaneous movement of several neurotransmitters, which gives a unique insight into brain function.
FREMONT, CA: The brain neurons interact by utilizing electric signals. The researchers have been recording them with electrodes since the 1970s. A group of researchers from the Harvard John A, Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, for the first time in history, has used a unique kind of nanoelectrodes that records the electric signals of the neuron networks.
The electronic chip created by the scientists can perform the high-sensitivity intracellular simultaneous recording of signals from the immense number of connected neurons. This advancement has empowered them to map synaptic networks at a phenomenal level, identifying numerous synaptic connections.
Deploying sensitivity and parallelism together can benefit fundamental and applied neurobiology alike, even for procedures like the construction of functional connectome and electrophysiological screening with high-throughput.
This prolonged sought-after parallelization of intracellular recording has allowed the mapping of the biological synaptic network, which can create new machine intelligence procedures for building next-generation neuromorphic processors and artificial neural systems.
The researchers used similar manufacturing technology as computer microprocessors to make the electronic chip. The chip incorporates a thick array of nanometer-scale electrodes standing vertically on its surface. An underlying integrated circuit operates these electrodes. Each nanoelectrode is covered with platinum powder giving it a rough surface, which enhances its ability to transmit the signals.
The neurons are cultured directly on the chip. A current is sent to each coupled neuron by the integrated circuit through the nanoelectrode to open little openings in its membrane, which creates intracellular access. Also, the same integrated circuit amplifies the voltage signals from the neuron, which is picked up by the nanoelectrode through the little holes.
In experiments, almost 1,200 rat neurons were recorded by the array. The 20 minutes of recording astonished the scientists and further empowered them to map more than 300 synaptic connections.
The high-throughput, high-precision chip was also used to measure the medication effects on the synaptic connection over the rat neuronal system. The researchers are currently targeting building up a wafer-scale framework to screen drugs for neurological disorders like schizophrenia, addiction, autism, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease.