Optical monitoring of neural networks evoked by focal electrical stimulation on microelectrode arrays using FM dyes

Sang Beom Jun, Karen L. Smith, William Shain, Natalie M. Dowell-Mesfin, Sung June Kim, Matthew R. Hynd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Patch-clamping or microelectrode arrays (MEA) are conventional methods to monitor the electrical activity in biological neural networks in vitro. Despite the effectiveness of these techniques, there are disadvantages including the limited number of electrodes and the predetermined location of electrodes in MEAs. In particular, these drawbacks raise a difficulty in monitoring a number of neurons outnumbering the electrodes. Here, we propose an optical technique to determine the effective range of focal electrical stimulation using FM dyes in neural networks grown on planar-type MEAs. After 3 weeks in culture, electrical stimulation was delivered to neural networks via an underlying electrode in the presence of FM dyes. The stimulation induced the internalization of the dye into the neurons around the stimulating electrodes. Fluorescent images of dye distribution successfully showed the effects of focal stimulation. A range of stimulus amplitudes and frequencies were examined to collect fluorescence images. FM-dye uptake after electrical stimulation resulted in the labeling of cells up to approximately 300 μm away from the stimulating electrode. Fluorescence intensity increased proportionally to stimulation amplitude. Tetrodotoxin was shown to inhibit the labeling of neurons except those located immediately adjacent (within 40 μm) from the stimulating electrode. In the presence of AMPA and NMDA receptors antagonists, the FM-dye labeling appeared within 80 μm from the electrode, indicating directly evoked neural networks via blocking of glutamatergic synaptic transmission. These results showed that FM dyes can be a useful tool for monitoring activity-dependent synaptic events and determining the effect of focal stimulation in cultured neural networks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)933-940
Number of pages8
JournalMedical and Biological Engineering and Computing
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This study was supported by the International Collaboration Program NBS-ERC/KOSEF (SJK), NIBIB R21-EB 007782 (MRH), P41-EB002003 (WS), and NINDS R01-NS0044287 (WS). Wide-field microscopy was performed in the Wadsworth Center Advanced microscopy and Image Analysis Core. The authors thank Dr. Stephen R. Ikeda in NIAAA/NIH and J. W. Kim in Seoul National University for the technical guidance for image analysis and the fabrication of microelectrode arrays, respectively.


  • FM dye
  • Focal stimulation
  • Microelectrode array
  • Neural network


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