Intracellular impedance measurements reveal non-ohmic properties of the extracellular medium around neurons.

Jean-Marie Gomes, Claude Bedard, Silvana Valtcheva, Matthew Nelson, Vitalia Khokhlova, Pierre Pouget, Laurent Venance, Thierry Bal and Alain Destexhe

Biophysical Journal 110: 234-246, 2016.

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The electrical properties of extracellular space around neurons are important to understand the genesis of extracellular potentials, as well as for localizing neuronal activity from extracellular recordings. However, the exact nature of these extracellular properties is still uncertain. We introduce a method to measure the impedance of the tissue, and which preserves the intact cell-medium interface, using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings in vivo and in vitro. We find that neural tissue has marked non-ohmic and frequency-filtering properties, which are not consistent with a resistive (ohmic) medium, as often assumed. In contrast, using traditional metal electrodes provides very different results, more consistent with a resistive medium. The amplitude and phase profiles of the measured impedance are consistent with the contribution of ionic diffusion. We also show that the impact of such frequency-filtering properties is possibly important on the genesis of local field potentials, as well as on the cable properties of neurons. The present results show non-ohmic properties of the extracellular medium around neurons, and suggest that source estimation methods, as well as the cable properties of neurons, which all assume ohmic extracellular medium, may need to be re-evaluated.

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