Miniature motorized microdrive and commutator system for chronic neural recording in small animals

J Neurosci Methods. 2001 Dec 15;112(2):83-94. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(01)00426-5.


The use of chronically implanted electrodes for neural recordings in small, freely behaving animals poses several unique technical challenges. Because of the need for an extremely lightweight apparatus, chronic recording technology has been limited to manually operated microdrives, despite the advantage of motorized manipulators for positioning electrodes. Here we describe a motorized, miniature chronically implantable microdrive for independently positioning three electrodes in the brain. The electrodes are controlled remotely, avoiding the need to disturb the animal during electrode positioning. The microdrive is approximately 6 mm in diameter, 17 mm high and weighs only 1.5 g, including the headstage preamplifier. Use of the motorized microdrive has produced a ten-fold increase in our data yield compared to those experiments done using a manually operated drive. In addition, we are able to record from multiple single neurons in the behaving animal with signal quality comparable to that seen in a head-fixed anesthetized animal. We also describe a motorized commutator that actively tracks animal rotation based on a measurement of torque in the tether.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted / standards*
  • Electronics, Medical / instrumentation*
  • Electronics, Medical / methods
  • Electrophysiology / instrumentation*
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Feedback
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurophysiology / instrumentation*
  • Neurophysiology / methods
  • Songbirds
  • Torque