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ACS Chem Neurosci. 2011 Nov 16;2(11):658-666.

Chronically Implanted, Nafion-Coated Ag/AgCl Reference Electrodes for Neurochemical Applications.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27599.


Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV) at carbon fiber microelectrodes can be used to measure behaviorally correlated dopamine changes in the extracellular fluid of the brain of freely moving rats. These experiments employ a chronically implanted Ag/AgCl reference electrode. When dopamine measurements are taken 4 days after implantation, there is often a potential shift, typically greater than +0.2 V, in the anodic and cathodic peaks in the cyclic voltammogram for dopamine. In this work, we optimized a method to coat sintered Ag/AgCl reference electrodes with the perfluorinated polymer, Nafion, to prevent this shift. We find that we can stabilize reference electrodes for up to 28 days. Immunohistochemistry of the tissue around the implant site shows extensive glial encapsulation around both bare and Nafion-coated devices. However, the lesion around bare electrodes has a rough texture implying that these cells are strongly adsorbed onto the bare reference electrode, while the lesion around a Nafion-coated electrode shows that cells are more intact implying that they adsorb less strongly. EDS and SEM analysis of the surface of the electrodes confirms this by visualizing a heavy build up of plaques, organic in nature, only on bare electrodes. Impedance spectroscopy indicates no difference between the impedance of bare and Nafion-coated Ag/AgCl electrodes, indicating that glial encapsulation does not lead to an increase in uncompensated resistance between the working and reference electrodes. The electrochemical shift therefore must be due to the unique chemical microenvironment around the reference electrode that alters the chloride equilibrium, a process that the Nafion coating prevents.

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