In his opinion, the neuroscience community has underestimated the potential of microelectrodes arrays for quite some time, says Prof. Hierlemann. With the work published now in "Nature Communications", he hopes to further establish this method. "These results show that the microelectrode array technology is enabling access to data that are currently not accessible through other technologies," says the bioengineer.
Neurons, axons and signal propagation
Nerve cells or neurons communicate with other neurons via electrical and chemical signals. If an electrical signal within a cell body, close to the axon initial segment, is large enough, it enters the axon and propagates along its length at a high speed. This is achieved by alterations in the so-called resting potential of the axon membrane, which usually has a steady negative value. Sodium ion channels open, and because of a concentration gradient, positively charged sodium ions from outside the axon travel into the axon. As a consequence, the membrane potential is briefly reversed in polarity until potassium channels open and positively charged potassium ions are released into the external liquid. This brief change in membrane potential, a so-called action potential, can be detected with the microelectrode array chip. An action potential travels without attenuation to synapses, neuron-to-neuron junctions, where the electrical signal is translated into a chemical signal: neurotransmitters are released, diffuse through the small synaptic cleft and initiate electrical activity in the neighboring postsynaptic cell. After an act
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