Neurons as sensors: Individual and cascaded chemical sensing

Shalini Prasad, Xuan Zhang, Mo Yang, Cengiz S. Ozkan, Mihrimah Ozkan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


A single neuron sensor has been developed based on the interaction of gradient electric fields and the cell membrane. Single neurons are rapidly positioned over individual microelectrodes using positive dielectrophoretic traps. This enables the continuous extracellular electrophysiological measurements from individual neurons. The sensor developed using this technique provides the first experimental method for determining single cell sensitivity; the speed of response and the associated physiological changes to a broad spectrum of chemical agents. Binding of specific chemical agents to a specific combination of receptors induces changes to the extracellular membrane potential of a single neuron, which can be translated into unique "signature patterns" (SP), which function as identification tags. Signature patterns are derived using Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) analysis and Wavelet Transformation (WT) analysis of the modified extracellular action potential. The validity and the sensitivity of the system are demonstrated for a variety of chemical agents ranging from behavior altering chemicals (ethanol), environmentally hazardous agents (hydrogen peroxide, EDTA) to physiologically harmful agents (pyrethroids) at pico- and femto-molar concentrations. The ability of a single neuron to selectively identify specific chemical agents when injected in a serial manner is demonstrated in "cascaded sensing".
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1599-1610
Number of pages12
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2004


  • Dielectrophoretic cell patterning
  • Microelectrode cell arrays
  • Neuron sensors
  • Single and cascaded chemical sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Electrochemistry


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