After the success of its first-generation Neuropixels probe, being used in more than 400 labs worldwide, Imec has announced the release of the next edition of the probing tool – Neuropixels 2.0. The 2nd-generation probe is about one-third the size of its predecessor and is designed to record the electrical activity from more individual neurons and have the unique ability to track this activity over extended periods of time – from days to weeks and potentially months – making it useful for studying long-term phenomena like learning and memory in small animals. Prototypes of the new probe are currently being tested in labs across the world with widespread distribution expected sometime in 2022.
Neuropixels 2.0 advances on several key innovations. Scientists and engineers developed new ways to process the data. Strategic changes to the layout of the probes helped make them better suited to certain tasks. And engineers at Imec used the center’s proprietary technology to design, develop and fabricate the probe. The original Neuropixels probe relies on a single narrow metal piece that enters the brain, while the new version utilizes four, meaning recording sites are distributed over a wider area, allowing for more efficient recording in many important brain areas, especially thin layers within the brain.
According to researchers, tracking the same neuron over time has been an ongoing challenge because brains move a little bit whenever animals move. Each Neuropixels probe contains multiple recording sites that pick up neural signals. The newest version has more of these sites spaced closer together. Like positioning many microphones around a crowded room, the design change makes it more likely that if a neuron jiggles out of reach of one recording site, it’ll still be picked up by a neighboring one.