Journal of Neural Engineering

A three-dimensional micro-electrode array for in-vitro neuronal interfacing

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Objective. In this paper, we report on the development of an easy-to-fabricate three-dimensional Micro-Electrode Array (3D-MEA) specifically designed for brain-on-a-dish applications. Approach. The proposed device consists of pillar-shaped gold microelectrodes realized by electroplating directly on top of a standard MEA, making this approach highly versatile and convenient for batch fabrication. Moreover, with this simple technique, it is possible to obtain electrodes with a height of more than 100 µm onto different kind of substrates, ranging from glass to flexible plastic ones. Main results. This novel 3D-MEA structure has been validated with acute brain slices, successfully recording both epileptiform-like discharges (upon the administration of 4-AP), and electrically-evoked neuronal activity. The preliminary validation showed a substantial improvement in the signals amplitude with respect to both commercial and custom planar electrodes thanks to a better coupling offered by the peculiar shape of the three-dimensional electrodes. Significance. Beside the versatility of the fabrication approach, which allows to obtain 3D MEA devices onto both rigid and flexible substrates, the reported validation showed how the pillar approach can outperform standard planar MEA recordings in terms of signal amplitude. Moreover, thanks to the possibility of obtaining multi-level 3D structures within the same device, the proposed fabrication technique offers an interesting and flexible approach for the development of a new family of electrophysiological tools for 3D in vitro electrophysiology, in particular for acute brain slices and 3D neuronal cultures for brain-on-a-dish applications.