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Large-scale Recording of Neurons by Movable Silicon Probes in Behaving Rodents

Published: March 4th, 2012



1Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of New Jersey, 2Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology, Collège de France, 3Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howards Hughes Medical Institute, 4Deptartment of Psychology, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

We describe methods for large-scale recording of multiple single units and local field potential in behaving rodents with silicon probes. Drive fabrication, probe attachment to the drive and probe implantation processes are illustrated in sufficient details for easy replication.

A major challenge in neuroscience is linking behavior to the collective activity of neural assemblies. Understanding of input-output relationships of neurons and circuits requires methods with the spatial selectivity and temporal resolution appropriate for mechanistic analysis of neural ensembles in the behaving animal, i.e. recording of representatively large samples of isolated single neurons. Ensemble monitoring of neuronal activity has progressed remarkably in the past decade in both small and large-brained animals, including human subjects1-11. Multiple-site recording with silicon-based devices are particularly effective because of their scalability, small volume and geometric design.

Here, we describe methods for recording multiple single neurons and local field potential in behaving rodents, using commercially available micro-machined silicon probes with custom-made accessory components. There are two basic options for interfacing silicon probes to preamplifiers: printed circuit boards and flexible cables. Probe supplying companies (;; usually provide the bonding service and deliver probes bonded to printed circuit boards or flexible cables. Here, we describe the implantation of a 4-shank, 32-site probe attached to flexible polyimide cable, and mounted on a movable microdrive. Each step of the probe preparation, microdrive construction and surgery is illustrated so that the end user can easily replicate the process.

1. Construction of the microdrive

All drives are made from the same basic elements: a moving part, which carries the electrode and a fixed part, which is anchored to the skull. An ideal microdrive allows smooth but long enough travel of the electrode in multiple small steps, is sturdy enough to prevent accidental movement of the electrode, easy to manipulate by the experimenter without interfering with the animal's behavior, small in size and light in weight. As a result of these competing requi.......

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This movie illustrates the implantation procedure of silicon probes for chronic large-scale recordings in the behaving rat. Critical steps to ensure quality recordings of neuronal activity arise from the fragility of both biological (brain tissue) and technical (silicon probe) materials. Special care should be taken while handling the probe to avoid any contact of shanks with any remotely "hard" surface (for example, the shanks would break if one tried to implant them in the brain without removing the dura). Similarly, a.......

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Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (European Union's FP/2007-2013 Grant Agreements #221834 and 254780), J.D. McDonnell Foundation, NSF Grant SBE 0542013, National Institutes of Health Grant NS034994, National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH5467 and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Janelia Farm Research Campus grant).


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NameCompanyCatalog NumberComments
NameTypeCompanyCatalog NumberComments
Silicon probe Buzsaki32, 4 shanks x 8 sites. Packaging: flexible polyamide cableMaterialNeuroNexusProbe: buzsaki32
Packaging: HC32
Recording probe
Round Brass Screw, 00-90 x 1/2 Round Brass ScrewsMaterialJIMorrisR0090B500Drive part
Brass Hex Nut, 00-90MaterialJIMorrisN0090BDrive part
Brass C260 Strip, ASTM-B36
Thickness: 0.025", Length: 12", Width: 1/2"
MaterialSmall PartsB000FMYU72Drive part
Connector Header, pitch 2mm, male, single row, straigt, 36 positionsMaterialDigikey2163S-36-NDDrive part
2-part Sylgard silicon ElastomerMaterialWorld Precision InstrumentsSYLG184To extra-insulate the probe
Decon Contrad 70 Liquid DetergentReagentFisher Scientific04-355
Decon Laboratories
To clean the recording sites
Impedance Conditioning ModuleEquipmentFHC Inc.55-70-0Impedance meter
niPOD – 32 channelsEquipmentNeuronexusniPOD -32Impedance meter
Grip Cement Industrial GradeMaterialCaulk Dentsply675571 (powder)
675572 (solvent)
Grip cement
1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3'-tetramethylindocarbocyanine perchlorate ('DiI'; DiIC18(3))ReagentInvitrogenD282To stain the probe track in the brain
Stainless Steel Machine Screw, Binding Head, Slotted Drive, #00-90, 1/8" MaterialSmall PartsMX-0090-02BGround and reference screws
Magnet wire, 20G, nylon-polyurethane coating, MW80MaterialSmall PartsB000IJYRP2Ground and reference wire
Stainless Steel Machine Screw, Binding Head Slotted Drive, #000-120, 1/16"MaterialSmall PartsMX-000120-01BAnchor screws
N-3 All purpose Flux LiquidReagentLa-Co (Markal)23512Allows to solder stainless-steel
MicroGrid Precision Expanded CopperMaterialDexmet3 CU6-050 FACopper mesh for on-head Faraday cage
C&B-METABOND Quick! Cement System - Dentin ActivatorMaterialParkellS380 
C&B-METABOND Quick! Cement System – Dental cementMaterialParkellS380 
Sharp point tungsten needle and holderToolRoboz Surgical instrumentsRS-6064 and RS-6061To make the hook to lift the dura
Carbide Bur HP 1/4ToolHenry Schein9990013 
Paraffin (Granules)MaterialFisher ScientificP31-500 
Mineral Oil, Light (NF/FCC)MaterialFisher ScientificO121-1 
GC ELECTRONICS 10-114 2-Part Epoxy AdhesiveMaterialNewark00Z416 
Type 1 LITZ 21 AWG 40/36 Red Single Polyurethane-Nylon (MW80-C) TO 0.041"+/-0.002" ODMaterialNew England Wire Technologies CorporationN28-36E-400-2To make the cable between the headstage and the amplifier
32-channel Very Large Scale Integration headstage, 20x gainEquipmentPlexonHST/32V-G20Headstage

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