Neuropixels: unprecedented detail when measuring brain activity

Engineers and scientists at imec, KU Leuven and VIB collaborated with researchers at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus, the Allen Institute, and University College London (with grant funding from Gatsby and Wellcome) to build and test powerful new devices for detecting neural activity within the brains of living animals. The result is a silicon probe called Neuropixels, which can simultaneously record the activity of more than 200 individual neurons.

"This probe has 960 electrodes on a 20-μm-thick silicon stick. This is top-notch Belgian technology that will change electrophysiology as we know it!", says an enthusiastic Vincent Bonin (NERF) as the data are published in Nature.

Typical probes used to interrogate neuronal activity in rodent brains have either high spatiotemporal resolution or large volume coverage, but never both. This changes with Neuropixels, which should detect more than 10 times more neurons than commonly used probes. Its length and ability to switch channel configurations enables examination of several brain regions with a single probe.

Commentaries in Nature and The Economist herald the development of Neuropixels as ushering in a new era of microelectrodes.