Networks of neurons coupled to microelectrode arrays: a neuronal sensory system for pharmacological applications

Biosens Bioelectron. 2003 May;18(5-6):627-34. doi: 10.1016/s0956-5663(03)00041-1.


Two main features make microelectrode arrays (MEAs) a valuable tool for electrophysiological measurements under the perspective of pharmacological applications, namely: (i) they are non-invasive and permit, under appropriate conditions, to monitor the electrophysiological activity of neurons for a long period of time (i.e. from several hours up to months); (ii) they allow a multi-site recording (up to tens of channels). Thus, they should allow a high-throughput screening while reducing the need for animal experiments. In this paper, by taking advantages of these features, we analyze the changes in activity pattern induced by the treatment with specific substances, applied on dissociated neurons coming from the chick-embryo spinal cord. Following pioneering works by Gross and co-workers (see e.g. Gross and Kowalski, 1991. Neural Networks, Concepts, Application and Implementation, vol. 4. Prentice Hall, NJ, pp. 47-110; Gross et al., 1992. Sensors Actuators, 6, 1-8.), in this paper analysis of the drugs' effects (e.g. NBQX, CTZ, MK801) to the collective electrophysiological behavior of the neuronal network in terms of burst activity, will be presented. Data are simultaneously recorded from eight electrodes and besides variations induced by the drugs also the correlation between different channels (i.e. different area in the neural network) with respect to the chemical stimuli will be introduced (Bove et al., 1997. IEEE Trans. Biomed. Eng., 44, 964-977.). Cultured spinal neurons from the chick embryo were chosen as a neurobiological system for their relative simplicity and for their reproducible spontaneous electrophysiological behavior. It is well known that neuronal networks in the developing spinal cord are spontaneously active and that the presence of a significant and reproducible bursting activity is essential for the proper formation of muscles and joints (Chub and O'Donovan, 1998. J. Neurosci., 1, 294-306.). This fact, beside a natural variability among different biological preparations, allows a comparison also among different experimental session giving reliable results and envisaging a definition of a bioelectronic 'neuronal sensory system'.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Animals
  • Benzothiadiazines / pharmacology
  • Biosensing Techniques / instrumentation
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cells, Immobilized / drug effects
  • Cells, Immobilized / physiology
  • Chick Embryo
  • Chickens
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology
  • Microelectrodes*
  • Nerve Net / drug effects*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Quinoxalines / pharmacology
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted*


  • Benzothiadiazines
  • Quinoxalines
  • 2,3-dioxo-6-nitro-7-sulfamoylbenzo(f)quinoxaline
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • cyclothiazide