Photoconductive stimulation of neurons cultured on silicon wafers

Nat Protoc. 2006;1(1):461-7. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2006.67.


Photoconductive stimulation allows the noninvasive depolarization of neurons cultured on a silicon wafer. This technique relies on a beam of light to target a cell of interest while applying a voltage bias across the silicon wafer. The targeted cell is excited with minimal physiological manipulation, and, therefore, long-term modulation of activity patterns and investigations of biochemical mechanisms sensitive to physiological perturbations are possible. Ideologically similar to transistor-based neuronal interfaces, the photoconductive-stimulation method has the advantage of being able to extracellularly excite any neuron in a network regardless of its spatial position on the silicon substrate. This protocol can be easily implemented on a conventional reflected-light fluorescence microscope using materials and resources that are readily available. Time requirements are comparable to standard cell-culture and electrophysiology techniques. When combined with fluorescence imaging of various molecular probes, activity-dependent cellular processes can be dynamically monitored.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytological Techniques / methods*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Stimulation / methods*
  • Light*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Silicon / chemistry*


  • Silicon