Significance: Cortically implanted microelectrode arrays provide a direct interface with neuronal populations and are used to restore movement capabilities and provide sensory feedback to patients with paralysis or amputation. Penetrating electrodes experience high rates of signal degradation within the first year that limit effectiveness and lead to eventual device failure.
Aim: To assess vascular and neuronal changes over time in mice with implanted electrodes and examine the contribution of the brain tissue response to electrode performance.
Approach: We used a multimodal approach combining in vivo electrophysiology and subcellular-level optical imaging.
Results: At acute timescales, we observed structural damage from the mechanical trauma of electrode insertion, evidenced by severed dendrites in the electrode path and local hypofluorescence. Superficial vessel growth and remodeling occurred within the first few weeks in both electrode-implanted and window-only animals, but the deeper capillary growth evident in window-only animals was suppressed in electrode-implanted animals. After longer implantation periods, there was evidence of degeneration of transected dendrites superficial to the electrode path and localized neuronal cell body loss, along with deep vascular velocity changes near the electrode. Total spike rate (SR) across all animals reached a peak between 3 and 9 months postimplantation, then decreased. The local field potential signal remained relatively constant for up to 6 months, particularly in the high-gamma band, indicating long-term electrode viability and neuronal functioning at further distances from the electrode, but it showed a reduction in some animals at later time points. Most importantly, we found that progressive high-gamma and SR reductions both correlate positively with localized cell loss and decreasing capillary density within 100 μm of the electrode.
Conclusions: This multifaceted approach provided a more comprehensive picture of the ongoing biological response at the brain–electrode interface than can be achieved with postmortem histology alone and established a real-time relationship between electrophysiology and tissue damage.
Following acute traumatic brain injury (TBI), timely transport to a hospital can significantly improve the prognosis for recovery. There is, however, a dearth of quantitative biomarkers for brain injury that can be rapidly acquired and interpreted in active, field environments in which TBIs are frequently incurred. We explored potential functional indicators for TBI that can be noninvasively obtained through portable detection modalities, namely optical and electrophysiological approaches. By combining diffuse correlation spectroscopy with colocalized electrophysiological measurements in a mouse model of TBI, we observed concomitant alterations in sensory-evoked cerebral blood flow (CBF) and electrical potentials following controlled cortical impact. Injury acutely reduced the peak amplitude of both electrophysiological and CBF responses, which mostly recovered to baseline values within 30 min, and intertrial variability for these parameters was also acutely altered. Notably, the postinjury dynamics of the CBF overshoot and undershoot amplitudes differed significantly; whereas the amplitude of the initial peak of stimulus-evoked CBF recovered relatively rapidly, the ensuing undershoot did not appear to recover within 30 min of injury. Additionally, acute injury induced apparent low-frequency oscillatory behavior in CBF (<1 Hz). Histological assessment indicated that these physiological alterations were not associated with any major, persisting anatomical changes. Several time-domain features of the blood flow and electrophysiological responses showed strong correlations in recovery kinetics. Overall, our results reveal an array of stereotyped, injury-induced alterations in electrophysiological and hemodynamic responses that can be rapidly obtained using a combination of portable detection techniques.