Neuronal activity generates ionic flows and thereby both magnetic fields and electric potential differences, i.e., voltages. Voltage measurements are widely used but suffer from isolating and smearing properties of tissue between source and sensor, are blind to ionic flow direction, and reflect the difference between two electrodes, complicating interpretation. Magnetic field measurements could overcome these limitations but have been essentially limited to magnetoencephalography (MEG), using centimeter-sized, helium-cooled extracranial sensors. Here, we report on in vivo magnetic recordings of neuronal activity from visual cortex of cats with magnetrodes, specially developed needle-shaped probes carrying micron-sized, non-cooled magnetic sensors based on spin electronics. Event-related magnetic fields inside the neuropil were on the order of several nanoteslas, informing MEG source models and efforts for magnetic field measurements through MRI. Though the signal-to-noise ratio is still inferior to electrophysiology, this proof of concept demonstrates the potential to exploit the fundamental advantages of magnetophysiology. Caruso et al. report in vivo, intra-cortical recordings of magnetic fields that reflect neuronal activity, using magnetrodes, i.e., micron size magnetic sensors based on spin electronics.
Caruso, L., Wunderle, T., Lewis, C. M., Valadeiro, J., Trauchessec, V., Trejo Rosillo, J., … Pannetier-Lecoeur, M. (2017). In Vivo Magnetic Recording of Neuronal Activity. Neuron, 95(6), 1283-1291.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.08.012