Mini review: Multielectrode recordings in insect brains

Mit Balvantray Bhavsar, Ralf Heinrich, Andreas Stumpner


Currently, more and more laboratories are acquiring the capability of simultaneously detecting the extracellular activity of neuronal populations in anaesthetized and awake animals by multielectrode recordings. In insects, multielectrode recordings are challenging due to the small size of the nervous system. Nevertheless, multielectrode recordings have been successfully established in brains of cockroaches, honeybees, fruit flies and grasshoppers to study sensory processing related to mechanosensation, olfaction, vision and audition. The number of neurons which can be recorded using such multielectrode did not exceed 5 and likely depends on factors like recorded compartment of the neuron, impedance of the multielectrode, number of wires included in the multielectrode and threshold for spike detection. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the recordings obviously depends on the material and method used for production of multielectrodes. To mark the location of the recording, different methods like current-driven copper deposition, labelling with fluorescent dye and electrocoagulation of nervous tissue are used. As expected, multielectrode recordings are more difficult in freely moving compared to restricted insects due to movement artifacts and requirement for fixed placement of the multielectrode at a particular recording site in the CNS. Specific differences among different preparations and sensory systems like disentangling spike collisions in auditory stimulation increase in SNR after some time in olfactory systems and photoelectrical effect from compound eye in visual stimulation may require special attention and particular adaptations.

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