Microstimulation and multicellular analysis: A neural interfacing system for spatiotemporal stimulation
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Willfully controlling the focus of an extracellular stimulus remains a significant challenge in the development of neural prosthetics and therapeutic devices. In part, this challenge is due to the vast set of complex interactions between the electric fields induced by the microelectrodes and the complex morphologies and dynamics of the neural tissue. Overcoming such issues to produce methodologies for targeted neural stimulation requires a system that is capable of (1) delivering precise, localized stimuli a function of the stimulating electrodes and (2) recording the locations and magnitudes of the resulting evoked responses a function of the cell geometry and membrane dynamics. In order to improve stimulus delivery, we developed microfabrication technologies that could specify the electrode geometry and electrical properties. Specifically, we developed a closed-loop electroplating strategy to monitor and control the morphology of surface coatings during deposition, and we implemented pulse-plating techniques as a means to produce robust, resilient microelectrodes that could withstand rigorous handling and harsh environments. In order to evaluate the responses evoked by these stimulating electrodes, we developed microscopy techniques and signal processing algorithms that could automatically identify and evaluate the electrical response of each individual neuron. Finally, by applying this simultaneous stimulation and optical recording system to the study of dissociated cortical cultures in multielectode arrays, we could evaluate the efficacy of excitatory and inhibitory waveforms. Although we found that the proximity of the electrode is a poor predictor of individual neural excitation thresholds, we have shown that it is possible to use inhibitory waveforms to globally reduce excitability in the vicinity of the electrode. Thus, the developed system was able to provide very high resolution insight into the complex set of interactions between the stimulating electrodes and populations of individual neurons.