Vertical nanowire electrode arrays as a scalable platform for intracellular interfacing to neuronal circuits

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Deciphering the neuronal code—the rules by which neuronal circuits store and process information—is a major scientific challenge1,2. Currently, these efforts are impeded by a lack of experimental tools that are sensitive enough to quantify the strength of individual synaptic connections and also scalable enough to simultaneously measure and control a large number of mammalian neurons with single-cell resolution3,4. Here, we report a scalable intracellular electrode platform based on vertical nanowires that allows parallel electrical interfacing to multiple mammalian neurons. Specifically, we show that our vertical nanowire electrode arrays can intracellularly record and stimulate neuronal activity in dissociated cultures of rat cortical neurons and can also be used to map multiple individual synaptic connections. The scalability of this platform, combined with its compatibility with silicon nanofabrication techniques, provides a clear path towards simultaneous, high-fidelity interfacing with hundreds of individual neurons.

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Figure 1: VNEA for interrogating neuronal networks.
Figure 2: Characterization of the VNEA/cell electrical interface.
Figure 3: Stimulation and recording of rat cortical neurons using a VNEA.
Figure 4: Identification of functional synaptic connectivity using a VNEA and a patch pipette.


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The authors thank J. MacArthur, E. Soucy, J. Greenwood, L. DeFeo, N. Sanjana, A. Dibos, G. Lau, B. Ilic, M. Metzler, L. Xie and E. Macomber for scientific discussions and technical assistance. The VNEA fabrication and characterization were performed in part at the Center for Nanoscale Systems at Harvard University. This work was supported by an NIH Pioneer award (5DP1OD003893-03) and an NSF EFRI award (EFRI-0835947).

Author information

H.P. and J.T.R. conceived and designed the experiments. J.T.R., M.J., A.K.S. and R.S.G. performed experiments, and M-H.Y. helped with the experimental set-up and initiation of the experiments. J.T.R., M.J. and A.K.S. analysed the data. H.P. supervised the project. J.T.R., M.J., A.K.S. and H.P. wrote the manuscript, and all authors read and discussed it extensively.

Correspondence to Hongkun Park.

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Robinson, J., Jorgolli, M., Shalek, A. et al. Vertical nanowire electrode arrays as a scalable platform for intracellular interfacing to neuronal circuits. Nature Nanotech 7, 180–184 (2012) doi:10.1038/nnano.2011.249

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