Extracellular recordings have been, and still are, the main workhorse when measuring neural activity in vivo. In single-unit recordings sharp electrodes are positioned close to a neuronal soma, and the firing rate of this particular neuron is measured by counting spikes, that is, the standardized extracellular signatures of action potentials (Gold et al., 2006). For such recordings the interpretation of the measurements is straightforward, but complications arise when more than one neuron contributes to the recorded extracellular potential. For example, if two firing neurons of the same type are at about the same distance from their somas to the tip of the recording electrode, it may be very difficult to sort the spikes according to from which neuron they originate.
The use of two (stereotrode (McNaughton et al., 1983)), four (tetrode (Recce and O'Keefe, 1989;Wilson andMcNaughton, 1993; Gray et al., 1995; Jog et al., 2002)) or more (Buzsáki, 2004) close-neighbored recording sites allows for improved spike sorting, since the different distances from the electrode tips or contacts allow for triangulation. With present recording techniques and clustering methods one can sort out spike trains from tens of neurons from single tetrodes and from hundreds of neurons with multi-shank electrodes (Buzsáki, 2004).
Information about spiking is typically extracted from the high-frequency band (≳500 Hz) of extracellular potentials. Since these high-frequency signals generally stem from an unknown number of spiking neurons in the immediate vicinity of the electrode contact, this is called multi-unit activity (MUA).
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.