An evaluation of the conductivity profile in the somatosensory barrel cortex of Wistar rats

J Neurophysiol. 2010 Dec;104(6):3388-412. doi: 10.1152/jn.00122.2010. Epub 2010 Sep 1.


Microelectrode arrays used to record local field potentials from the brain are being built with increasingly more spatial resolution, ranging from the initially developed laminar arrays to those with planar and three-dimensional (3D) formats. In parallel with such development in recording techniques, current source density (CSD) analyses have recently been expanded up to the continuous-3D form. Unfortunately, the effect of the conductivity profile on the CSD analysis performed with contemporary microelectrode arrays has not yet been evaluated and most of the studies assumed it was homogeneous and isotropic. In this study, we measured the conductivity profile in the somatosensory barrel cortex of Wistar rats. To that end, we combined multisite electrophysiological data recorded with a homemade assembly of silicon-based probes and a nonlinear least-squares algorithm that implicitly assumed that the cerebral cortex of rodents could be locally approximated as a layered anisotropic spherical volume conductor. The eccentricity of the six cortical layers in the somatosensory barrel cortex was evaluated from postmortem histological images. We provided evidence for the local spherical character of the entire barrels field, with concentric cortical layers. We found significant laminar dependencies in the conductivity values with radial/tangential anisotropies. These results were in agreement with the layer-dependent orientations of myelinated axons, but hardly related to densities of cells. Finally, we demonstrated through simulations that ignoring the real conductivity profile in the somatosensory barrel cortex of rats caused considerable errors in the CSD reconstruction, with pronounced effects on the continuous-3D form and charge-unbalanced CSD. We concluded that the conductivity profile must be included in future developments of CSD analysis, especially for rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Normal Distribution
  • Phantoms, Imaging
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sepharose
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / physiology*


  • Sepharose