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Microelectrode arrays (MEAs), substrate-integrated planar arrays of up to thousands of closely spaced metal electrode contacts, have long been used to record neuronal activity in in vitro brain slices with high spatial and temporal resolution. However, the analysis of the MEA potentials has generally been mainly qualitative. Here we use a biophysical forward-modelling formalism based on the finite element method (FEM) to establish quantitatively accurate links between neural activity in the slice and potentials recorded in the MEA set-up. Then we develop a simpler approach based on the method of images (MoI) from electrostatics, which allows for computation of MEA potentials by simple formulas similar to what is used for homogeneous volume conductors. As we find MoI to give accurate results in most situations of practical interest, including anisotropic slices covered with highly conductive saline and MEA-electrode contacts of sizable physical extensions, a Python software package (ViMEAPy) has been developed to facilitate forward-modelling of MEA potentials generated by biophysically detailed multicompartmental neurons. We apply our scheme to investigate the influence of the MEA set-up on single-neuron spikes as well as on potentials generated by a cortical network comprising more than 3000 model neurons. The generated MEA potentials are substantially affected by both the saline bath covering the brain slice and a (putative) inadvertent saline layer at the interface between the MEA chip and the brain slice. We further explore methods for estimation of current-source density (CSD) from MEA potentials, and find the results to be much less sensitive to the experimental set-up.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





403 - 426


Current source density, Finite element method, Method of images, Microelectrode array, Modelling, Action Potentials, Animals, Brain, Humans, Microelectrodes, Models, Neurological, Nerve Net, Neurons