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Title: Development of a micro recording probe for measurements of neuronal activity in freely moving animals
Author: Peterson, Kristopher David
ISNI:       0000 0004 2695 5139
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2011
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To discover general principles of biological sensorimotor control, insects have become remarkably successful model systems. In contrast to highly complex mammals, the functional organization of the insect nervous system in combination with a well-defined behavioural repertoire turned out to provide ideal conditions for quantitative studies into the neural control of behaviour. In addition, the search for biologically inspired control algorithms has further accelerated research into the neuronal mechanisms underlying flight and gaze stabilization, especially in blowflies. However, recording the neuronal activity in freely behaving insects, in particular in comparatively small insects such as blowflies, still imposes a major technical challenge. To date, electrophysiological recordings in unrestrained flies have never been achieved. This thesis describes the design and testing of a micro recording probe to be used for monitoring extracellular electrical activity in the nervous system of freely moving blowflies. In principle, this probe could also be used to study the neuronal control of behaviour in any other animal species the size of which is bigger than that of a blowfly. The nature of neuronal signals and the objective to record neuronal activity from behaving blowflies puts massive constraints on the specifications of the probe. I designed a differential amplifier with high gain, high linearity, low noise, and low power consumption. To fit the probe in the blowfly‟s head capsule and in direct contact with the animal‟s brain, the amplifier is on an unpackaged die. The neuronal signals are in the order of a few 100s of μV in amplitude. To be able to digitize such small signals >1000 times amplification is desirable. The small signal amplitudes also necessitate minimization of circuit noise. Linearity is necessary to prevent distortion of signal shape. Since connecting wires would impede movement of the animal, the probe would need to be powered by batteries. Therefore, low power is needed for two reasons: (i) to increase battery life, and therefore recording time, and (ii) because heat caused by power expenditure may damage the blowfly‟s brain or change its behaviour. To reduce power consumption I used CMOS transistors biased in the subthreshold region and a 2.2 V low power supply. The amplifier was characterized after fabrication by means of measuring its frequency response, linearity, and noise. I also recorded signals from a blowfly's brain and compared the performance of my recording probe with the performance of a high specification commercial amplifier in the time and frequency domains.
Supervisor: Krapp, Holger Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral