Recording large extracellular spikes in microchannels along many axonal sites from individual neurons

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 3;10(3):e0118514. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118514. eCollection 2015.


The numerous connections between neuronal cell bodies, made by their dendrites and axons, are vital for information processing in the brain. While dendrites and synapses have been extensively studied, axons have remained elusive to a large extent. We present a novel platform to study axonal physiology and information processing based on combining an 11,011-electrode high-density complementary metal-oxide semiconductor microelectrode array with a poly(dimethylsiloxane) channel device, which isolates axons from somas and, importantly, significantly amplifies recorded axonal signals. The combination of the microelectrode array with recording and stimulation capability with the microfluidic isolation channels permitted us to study axonal signal behavior at great detail. The device, featuring two culture chambers with over 30 channels spanning in between, enabled long-term recording of single spikes from isolated axons with signal amplitudes of 100 μV up to 2 mV. Propagating signals along axons could be recorded with 10 to 50 electrodes per channel. We (i) describe the performance and capabilities of our device for axonal electrophysiology, and (ii) present novel data on axonal signals facilitated by the device. Spontaneous action potentials with characteristic shapes propagated from somas along axons between the two compartments, and these unique shapes could be used to identify individual axons within channels that contained many axonal branches. Stimulation through the electrode array facilitated the identification of somas and their respective axons, enabling interfacing with different compartments of a single cell. Complex spike shapes observed in channels were traced back to single cells, and we show that more complicated spike shapes originate from a linear superposition of multiple axonal signals rather than signal distortion by the channels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / ultrastructure
  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • Electrophysiology / instrumentation*
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Equipment Design
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Microelectrodes
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Semiconductors
  • Signal Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Single-Cell Analysis / instrumentation*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods


  • Dimethylpolysiloxanes
  • baysilon