To understand how the brain operates, we must measure the joint activity of a myriad individual neurons distributed across brain regions. Until recently, this has been impossible: recording methods could either resolve the activity of individual neurons or monitor multiple brain regions. Neuropixels overcome this difficulty by distributing close to 1,000 sites over a one-centimeter shank.
In the rodent brain, these sites record from hundreds of neurons distributed across brain regions. For instance, two Neuropixels probes can record simultaneously from over 500 neurons in 5 regions of the mouse brain.
The first generation of Neuropixels probes are to be released to the public at cost price in 2018. They were developed in a collaboration led by Tim Harris at Janelia Research Campus involving scientists at UCL and Allen Institute for Brain Science, and engineers at IMEC, the nanoelectronics research center.
Research is underway to develop further versions of the probes: four-shank probes with a smaller base (ideal for chronic recordings), and optrodes that combine recording with optical stimulation (for optogenetic experiments).