The recent progress in both neurobiology and microelectronics suggests the creation of new, powerful tools to investigate the basic mechanisms of brain functionality. In particular, a lot of efforts are spent by scientific community to define new frameworks devoted to the analysis of in-vitro cultured neurons. One possible approach is recording their spiking activity to monitor the coordinated cellular behaviour and get insights about neural plasticity.
Due to the nature of neurons action-potentials, when considering the design of an integrated microelectronic-based recording system, a number of problems arise. First, one would desire to have a high number of recording sites (i.e. several hundreds): this poses constraints on silicon area and power consumption. In this regard, our aim is to integrate-through on-chip post-processing techniques-hundreds of bio-compatible microsensors together with CMOS standard-process low-power (i.e. some tenths of uW per channel) conditioning electronics. Each recording channel is provided with sampling electronics to insure synchronous recording so that, for example, cross-correlation between signals coming from different sites can be performed. Extra-cellular potentials are in the range of [50-150] uV, so a comparison in terms of noise-efficiency was carried out among different architectures and very low-noise pre-amplification electronics (i.e. less than 5 uVrms) was designed. As spikes measurements are made with respect to the voltage of a reference electrode, we opted for an AC-coupled differential-input preamplifier provided with band-pass filtering capability. To achieve this, we implemented large time-constant (up to seconds) integrated components in the preamp feedback path. Thus, we got rid also of random slow-drifting DC-offsets and common mode signals.
The paper will present our achievements in the design and implementation of a fully integrated bio-abio interface to record neural spiking activity. In particular, preliminary results will be reported.