The "Neuropixels" probe was developed for an international consortium consisting of Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and Wellcome, with funding of $5.5 million.
Scientists at HHMI’s Janelia Research Campus, the Allen Institute and University College London (UCL) worked together with engineers at nanotechnology company imec to build and test the probes, which were designed and fabricated on imec’s advanced silicon platform. This is a step up from European FP7 project Neuroseeker in which Imec also participated, announcing hundreds of electrodes 20x20µm2 in sized, distributed over a 8mm-long biocompatible needle.
The new probe has 960 sensors, each measuring 12x12µm, tiled on a superthin (20µm) shank that is 1cm long and 70µm wide. The shank is fabricated together with a 9x6mm base on a single chip. The sensor density allows it to record isolated spiking activity from hundreds of single neurons in parallel. The recorded signals are sent through 384 recording channels to the base where they are filtered, amplified and digitized to provide researchers with noise-free digital data.
The Neuropixels probe solves both issues and enables precise real-time recording of the activity of hundreds of individual neurons. In addition, because of the length of the shank on which the sensors are placed, it is possible to record neural activity across different brain regions. This capability is essential to study the coordinated action of brain regions, and provides a better method of understanding the brain, and ultimately, for diagnostic and prosthetic tools to tackle human brain diseases.