Engineering microscale systems for fully autonomous intracellular neural interfaces

Swathy Sampath Kumar, Michael S. Baker, Murat Okandan, Jit Muthuswamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Conventional electrodes and associated positioning systems for intracellular recording from single neurons in vitro and in vivo are large and bulky, which has largely limited their scalability. Further, acquiring successful intracellular recordings is very tedious, requiring a high degree of skill not readily achieved in a typical laboratory. We report here a robotic, MEMS-based intracellular recording system to overcome the above limitations associated with form factor, scalability, and highly skilled and tedious manual operations required for intracellular recordings. This system combines three distinct technologies: (1) novel microscale, glass–polysilicon penetrating electrode for intracellular recording; (2) electrothermal microactuators for precise microscale movement of each electrode; and (3) closed-loop control algorithm for autonomous positioning of electrode inside single neurons. Here we demonstrate the novel, fully integrated system of glass–polysilicon microelectrode, microscale actuators, and controller for autonomous intracellular recordings from single neurons in the abdominal ganglion of Aplysia californica (n = 5 cells). Consistent resting potentials (<−35 mV) and action potentials (>60 mV) were recorded after each successful penetration attempt with the controller and microactuated glass–polysilicon microelectrodes. The success rate of penetration and quality of intracellular recordings achieved using electrothermal microactuators were comparable to that of conventional positioning systems. Preliminary data from in vivo experiments in anesthetized rats show successful intracellular recordings. The MEMS-based system offers significant advantages: (1) reduction in overall size for potential use in behaving animals, (2) scalable approach to potentially realize multi-channel recordings, and (3) a viable method to fully automate measurement of intracellular recordings. This system will be evaluated in vivo in future rodent studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalMicrosystems and Nanoengineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Engineering microscale systems for fully autonomous intracellular neural interfaces'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this