Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published October 2013 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

Physical principles for scalable neural recoding


Simultaneously measuring the activities of all neurons in a mammalian brain at millisecond resolution is a challenge beyond the limits of existing techniques in neuroscience. Entirely new approaches may be required, motivating an analysis of the fundamental physical constraints on the problem. We outline the physical principles governing brain activity mapping using optical, electrical, magnetic resonance, and molecular modalities of neural recording. Focusing on the mouse brain, we analyze the scalability of each method, concentrating on the limitations imposed by spatiotemporal resolution, energy dissipation, and volume displacement. Based on this analysis, all existing approaches require orders of magnitude improvement in key parameters. Electrical recording is limited by the low multiplexing capacity of electrodes and their lack of intrinsic spatial resolution, optical methods are constrained by the scattering of visible light in brain tissue, magnetic resonance is hindered by the diffusion and relaxation timescales of water protons, and the implementation of molecular recording is complicated by the stochastic kinetics of enzymes. Understanding the physical limits of brain activity mapping may provide insight into opportunities for novel solutions. For example, unconventional methods for delivering electrodes may enable unprecedented numbers of recording sites, embedded optical devices could allow optical detectors to be placed within a few scattering lengths of the measured neurons, and new classes of molecularly engineered sensors might obviate cumbersome hardware architectures. We also study the physics of powering and communicating with microscale devices embedded in brain tissue and find that, while radio-frequency electromagnetic data transmission suffers from a severe power–bandwidth tradeoff, communication via infrared light or ultrasound may allow high data rates due to the possibility of spatial multiplexing. The use of embedded local recording and wireless data transmission would only be viable, however, given major improvements to the power efficiency of microelectronic devices.

Additional Information

© 2013 Marblestone, Zamft, Maguire, Shapiro, Cybulski, Glaser, Amodei, Stranges, Kalhor, Dalrymple, Seo, Alon, Maharbiz, Carmena, Rabaey, Boyden, Church and Kording. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Received: 07 July 2013; Accepted: 23 September 2013; Published online: 21 October 2013. We thank K. Esvelt for helpful discussionson bioluminescent proteins;D. Boysen for help on the fuel cell calculations; R. Tucker and E. Yablonovitch(http://www.e3s-center.org) for helpful discussions on the energy efficiency of CMOS;C. Xu and C. Schaffer for data on optical attenuation lengths; T. Dean and the participants in his CS379C course at Stanford/Google, including Chris Uhlik and Akram Sadek, for helpful discussions and informative content in the discussion notes (http://www.stanford.edu/class/cs379c/); and L. Wood, R. Koene, S. Rezchikov, A. Bansal, J. Lovelock, A. Payne, R. Barish, N. Donoghue, J. Pillow, W. Shih, P. Yin and J. Hewitt for helpful discussions and feedback on earlier drafts. A. Marblestone is supported by the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation fellowship. D. Dalrymple is supported by the Thiel Foundation. K. Kording is funded in part by the Chicago Biomedical Consortium with support from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. E. Boyden is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation, the MIT McGovern Institute and Media Lab, the New York Stem Cell Foundation Robertson Investigator Award, the Human Frontiers Science Program, and the Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator in Neuroscience Award. B. Stranges, B. Zamft, R. Kalh or and G. Church acknowledge support from the Office of Naval Research and the NIH Centers of Excellence in Genomic Science. M. Shapiro is supported by the Miller Research Institute, the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface and the W. M. Keck Foundation.

Attached Files

Submitted - 1306.5709.pdf

Published - fncom-07-00137.pdf


Files (3.3 MB)
Name Size Download all
1.3 MB Preview Download
2.0 MB Preview Download

Additional details

August 22, 2023
August 22, 2023