At present, the prime methodology for studying neuronal circuit-connectivity, physiology and pathology under in vitro or in vivo conditions is by using substrate-integrated microelectrode arrays. Although this methodology permits simultaneous, cell-non-invasive, long-term recordings of extracellular field potentials generated by action potentials, it is 'blind' to subthreshold synaptic potentials generated by single cells. On the other hand, intracellular recordings of the full electrophysiological repertoire (subthreshold synaptic potentials, membrane oscillations and action potentials) are, at present, obtained only by sharp or patch microelectrodes. These, however, are limited to single cells at a time and for short durations. Recently a number of laboratories began to merge the advantages of extracellular microelectrode arrays and intracellular microelectrodes. This Review describes the novel approaches, identifying their strengths and limitations from the point of view of the end users--with the intention to help steer the bioengineering efforts towards the needs of brain-circuit research.