Chemical signaling through the release of neurotransmitters into the extracellular space is the primary means of communication between neurons. More than four decades ago, Ralph Adams and his colleagues realized the utility of electrochemical methods for the study of easily oxidizable neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin and their metabolites. Today, electrochemical techniques are frequently coupled to microelectrodes to enable spatially resolved recordings of rapid neurotransmitter dynamics in a variety of biological preparations spanning from single cells to the intact brain of behaving animals. In this review, we provide a basic overview of the principles underlying constant-potential amperometry and fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, the most commonly employed electrochemical techniques, and the general application of these methods to the study of neurotransmission. We thereafter discuss several recent developments in sensor design and experimental methodology that are challenging the current limitations defining the application of electrochemical methods to neurotransmitter measurements.
Keywords: amperometry; biosensors; carbon-fiber microelectrodes; catecholamines; exocytosis; voltammetry.