Neuropixels probes are next-generation electrodes that record the activity of hundreds of neurons in the brain. They were developed through a collaboration funded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Wellcome Trust, Gatsby Charitable Foundation, and Allen Institute for Brain Science. The head of the collaboration is Tim Harris at HHMI Janelia Research Campus, and the electrodes are designed and fabricated by imec, the nanoelectronics research center.
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 were announced in 2017 (Jun, Steinmetz, Siegle, Denman, Bauza et al, Nature 2017) and are to be released to the public at cost price in 2018. 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).