Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Greg A. Gerhardt


An overarching goal of the Gerhardt laboratory is the development of an implantable neural device that allows for long-term glutamate recordings in the hippocampus. Proper L-glutamate regulation is essential for hippocampal function, while glutamate dysregulation is implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases. Direct evidence for subregional glutamate regulation is lacking in previous in vivo studies because of limitations in the spatio-temporal resolution of conventional experimental techniques. We used novel enzyme-coated microelectrode arrays (MEAs) for rapid measurements (2Hz) of extracellular glutamate in urethane-anesthetized rats. Potassium-evoked glutamate release was highest in the cornu ammonis 1 (CA1) subregion and lowest in the cornu ammonis 3 (CA3). In the dentate gyrus (DG), evoked-glutamate release was diminished at a higher potassium concentration but demonstrated faster release kinetics. These studies are the first to show subregion specific regulation of glutamate release in the hippocampus.

To allow for in vivo glutamate measurements in awake rats, we have adapted our MEAs for chronic use. Resting glutamate measurements were obtained up to six days post-implantation but recordings were unreliable at later time points. To determine the cause(s) for recording failure, a detailed investigation of MEA surface characteristics was conducted. Scanning electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy showed that PT sites have unique surface chemistry, a microwell geometry and nanometer-sized features, all of which appear to be favorable for high sensitivity recordings. Accordingly, studies were initiated to improve enzyme coatings using a computer-controlled microprinting system (Microfab Technologies, Plano, TX). Preliminary testing showed that microprinting allowed greater control over the coating process and produced MEAs that met our performance criteria.

Our final studies investigated the effects of chronic MEA implantation. Immunohistochemical analysis showed that the MEA produced minimal damage in the hippocampus at all time points from 1 day to 6 months. Additionally, tissue attachment to the MEA surface was minimal. Taken together with previous electrophysiology data supporting that MEAs are functional up to six months, these studies established that our chronic MEAs technology is capable of maintaining a brain-device interface that is both functional and biocompatible for extended periods of time.