Winter Term 2019-20 / Neural Inf Process



Course title

Neural Experimental Techniques

Euler, Zeck
Course content / topics

This course will provide a detailed overview of the experimental methods currently used in the Neurosciences to record (as well as modulate) neuronal activity – from the local activity with single-synapse resolution to population activity at the level of brain areas. While the course will also cover methods for imaging brain activity in vivo, the focus will be on techniques applicable to ex-vivo preparations of nervous tissue. The presented electrical- and light-based (“optical”) experimental methods include broadly available standard techniques (e.g. patch-clamp recordings), present cutting-edge methods (e.g. two-photon imaging) as well as emerging technologies (e.g. “neurochips”). Since connectivity and morphology are inextricably linked to function, the relevant anatomical methods will also be discussed. The advantages and limitations of each method with respect to different experimental approaches will be considered. The main objective of this course is to enable the student to select the appropriate technique for her/his neuroscientific research project.

Course schedule

Learning targets
The first lectures cover the bioelectric principles underlying the generation of neuronal activity and how this activity can be measured (e.g. intra- vs. extracellular). The students will then learn to appreciate the advantages and limitations of (1) intra- and extracellular voltage/current recording techniques using single electrodes or multi-electrode arrays, (2) related electrical methods (e.g. capacity measurements, dynamic clamp etc.), (3) the different light-based imaging methods (e.g. absorption/refraction, fluorescence emission etc.) with special emphasis on the respective activity probes (e.g. synthetic dyes, biosensors) and staining methods, Because of their importance for studying neuronal activity at the cellular and circuit level, two technologies will be discussed in more detail: Optical imaging using two-photon microscopy in combination with fluorescent probes and electrical imaging using CMOS-based high-density multi-electrode-arrays. Finally, the different means to elicit and modulate neural activity will be presented, including optogenetics and capacitive stimulation technology, with an outlook on neuroprosthetic applications.

Basic knowledge in physics and neuroscience is required

Suggested reading

Foundations of Cellular Neurophysiology, Ed. D. Johnston and S. Wu
Bioelectricity: A quantitative approach, Ed. R. Plonsey and R.C.Barr
Imaging in Neuroscience and Development, Ed. A.Konnerth and R Yuste

Additional reading will be provided during the course.

Day, time & location

Fri, 2 - 4 pm, GTC Lecture Hall