Months-long tracking of neuronal ensembles spanning multiple brain areas with Ultra-Flexible Tentacle Electrodes

Nat Commun. 2024 Jun 6;15(1):4822. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-49226-9.


We introduce Ultra-Flexible Tentacle Electrodes (UFTEs), packing many independent fibers with the smallest possible footprint without limitation in recording depth using a combination of mechanical and chemical tethering for insertion. We demonstrate a scheme to implant UFTEs simultaneously into many brain areas at arbitrary locations without angle-of-insertion limitations, and a 512-channel wireless logger. Immunostaining reveals no detectable chronic tissue damage even after several months. Mean spike signal-to-noise ratios are 1.5-3x compared to the state-of-the-art, while the highest signal-to-noise ratios reach 89, and average cortical unit yields are ~1.75/channel. UFTEs can track the same neurons across sessions for at least 10 months (longest duration tested). We tracked inter- and intra-areal neuronal ensembles (neurons repeatedly co-activated within 25 ms) simultaneously from hippocampus, retrosplenial cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex in freely moving rodents. Average ensemble lifetimes were shorter than the durations over which we can track individual neurons. We identify two distinct classes of ensembles. Those tuned to sharp-wave ripples display the shortest lifetimes, and the ensemble members are mostly hippocampal. Yet, inter-areal ensembles with members from both hippocampus and cortex have weak tuning to sharp wave ripples, and some have unusual months-long lifetimes. Such inter-areal ensembles occasionally remain inactive for weeks before re-emerging.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain* / cytology
  • Brain* / physiology
  • Electrodes, Implanted*
  • Hippocampus* / cytology
  • Hippocampus* / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neurons* / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology
  • Rats
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio