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J Neurosci Methods. 2012 Oct 15;211(1):49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2012.08.004. Epub 2012 Aug 14.

A glass-coated tungsten microelectrode enclosing optical fibers for optogenetic exploration in primate deep brain structures.

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Department of Physiology, The University of Tokyo School of Medicine, Japan.


The optogenetic approach to primate brain circuitry has unparalleled potential for uncovering genetically and temporally resolved neuronal mechanisms of higher brain functions. In order to optogenetically investigate the large and complex primate brain, an optical-/electrical probe, or "optrode", must be inserted deeply, which requires the optrode to be not only long and stiff, but also sharp and smooth to reduce possible tissue damage. This study presents a tungsten microelectrode-based optrode that encloses optical fibers within its insulation glass. Optical fibers and a tungsten wire were tightly bound to each other and integrally coated with a smooth, thin layer of glass. This design satisfied the structural requirements for use in deep brain structures. The performance of the optrode was then examined in the thalamus of the rat and macaque monkeys which were injected with lentiviral vectors carrying the channelrhodopsin-2-enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (ChR2-EYFP) transgene. With fluorescence measurements via the optical fiber, ChR2-EYFP expression was detected clearly in vivo, which was confirmed by histological analysis in the rat. With photostimulation and extracellular recording, photo-responsive single-unit activities were isolated in the monkeys. The depth distribution of these units and the peak of the EYFP fluorescence profile overlapped consistently with each other. Thus, by developing a new probe, optogenetic methodology was successfully applied to a primate subcortical structure. This smooth glass-coated optrode is a promising tool for chronic in vivo experiments with various research targets including deep brain structures in behaving monkeys.

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