Scientists studying how neurons in the brain communicate rely on glass and metal electrodes to detect the tiny, high speed synaptic potentials. Yet, nanotechnology offers the possibility of scaling down the electrodes so that individual neurons could be tapped in living, moving animals.
Researchers at Duke University are now reporting in PLoS ONE that they developed electrodes made out of self-entangled carbon nanotubes that are a millimeter long and feature a sub-micron tip. Carbon nanotubes have excellent electrical properties and are incredibly strong for their size. The new needles are small enough to penetrate individual cells and record intracellular electrical activity. The Duke team used the new electrodes to make such recordings in live animals and on brain slices and envision using the new electrodes to record neuronal activity for extended periods in freely moving animals.
Open access article in PLoS ONE: Intracellular Neural Recording with Pure Carbon Nanotube Probes