In order to understand how retinal circuits encode visual scenes, the neural activity of defined populations of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) has to be investigated. Here we report on a method for stimulating, detecting, and subsequently targeting defined populations of RGCs. The possibility to select a distinct population of RGCs for extracellular recording enables the design of experiments that can increase our understanding of how these neurons extract precise spatio-temporal features from the visual scene, and how the brain interprets retinal signals. We used light stimulation to elicit a response from physiologically distinct types of RGCs and then utilized the dynamic-configurability capabilities of a microelectronics-based high-density microelectrode array (MEA) to record their synchronous action potentials. The layout characteristics of the MEA made it possible to stimulate and record from multiple, highly overlapping RGCs simultaneously without light-induced artifacts. The high-density of electrodes and the high signal-to-noise ratio of the MEA circuitry allowed for recording of the activity of each RGC on 14±7 electrodes. The spatial features of the electrical activity of each RGC greatly facilitated spike sorting. We were thus able to localize, identify and record from defined RGCs within a region of mouse retina. In addition, we stimulated and recorded from genetically modified RGCs to demonstrate the applicability of optogenetic methods, which introduces an additional feature to target a defined cell type. The developed methodologies can likewise be applied to other neuronal preparations including brain slices or cultured neurons.
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