Article published in Biophysical Journal

Electric phenomena in brain tissue can be measured using extracellular potentials, such as the local field potential, or the electro-encephalogram. The interpretation of these signals depends on the electric structure and properties of extracellular media, but the measurements of these electric properties are still debated. Some measurements point to a model in which the extracellular medium is purely resistive, and thus parameters such as electric conductivity and permittivity should be independent of frequency. Other measurements point to a pronounced frequency dependence of these parameters, with scaling laws that are consistent with capacitive or diffusive effects. However, these experiments correspond to different preparations, and it is unclear how to correctly compare them. Here, we provide for the first time, impedance measurements (in the 1–10 kHz frequency range) using the same setup in various preparations, from primary cell cultures to acute brain slices, and a comparison with similar measurements performed in artificial cerebrospinal fluid with no biological material. The measurements show that when the current flows across a cell membrane, the frequency dependence of the macroscopic impedance between intracellular and extracellular electrodes is significant, and cannot be captured by a model with resistive media. Fitting a mean-field model to the data shows that this frequency dependence could be explained by the ionic diffusion mainly associated with Debye layers surrounding the membranes. We conclude that neuronal membranes and their ionic environment induce strong deviations to resistivity that should be taken into account to correctly interpret extracellular potentials generated by neurons.

Extracellular and intracellular components of the impedance of neural tissue. Claude Bedard, Charlotte Piette, Laurent Venance, Alain Destexhe.

Article published in Biophysical JournalAccess to the manuscript