Impedance Spectrum in Cortical Tissue: Implications for Propagation of LFP Signals on the Microscopic Level

eNeuro. 2017 Jan 31;4(1):ENEURO.0291-16.2016. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0291-16.2016. eCollection 2017 Jan-Feb.


Brain research investigating electrical activity within neural tissue is producing an increasing amount of physiological data including local field potentials (LFPs) obtained via extracellular in vivo and in vitro recordings. In order to correctly interpret such electrophysiological data, it is vital to adequately understand the electrical properties of neural tissue itself. An ongoing controversy in the field of neuroscience is whether such frequency-dependent effects bias LFP recordings and affect the proper interpretation of the signal. On macroscopic scales and with large injected currents, previous studies have found various grades of frequency dependence of cortical tissue, ranging from negligible to strong, within the frequency band typically considered relevant for neuroscience (less than a few thousand hertz). Here, we performed a detailed investigation of the frequency dependence of the conductivity within cortical tissue at microscopic distances using small current amplitudes within the typical (neuro)physiological micrometer and sub-nanoampere range. We investigated the propagation of LFPs, induced by extracellular electrical current injections via patch-pipettes, in acute rat brain slice preparations containing the somatosensory cortex in vitro using multielectrode arrays. Based on our data, we determined the cortical tissue conductivity over a 100-fold increase in signal frequency (5-500 Hz). Our results imply at most very weak frequency-dependent effects within the frequency range of physiological LFPs. Using biophysical modeling, we estimated the impact of different putative impedance spectra. Our results indicate that frequency dependencies of the order measured here and in most other studies have negligible impact on the typical analysis and modeling of LFP signals from extracellular brain recordings.

Keywords: conductivity; cortex; local field potential; multielectrode array; neuronal tissue; signal frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Impedance*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Extracellular Space
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Models, Neurological
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques


  • Sodium Chloride