Neural probes designed for extracellular recording of brain electrical activity are traditionally implanted with an insertion speed between 1 µm/s and 1 mm/s into the brain tissue. Although the physical effects of insertion speed on the tissue are well studied, there is a lack of research investigating how the quality of the acquired electrophysiological signal depends on the speed of probe insertion. In this study, we used four different insertion speeds (0.002 mm/s, 0.02 mm/s, 0.1 mm/s, 1 mm/s) to implant high-density silicon probes into deep layers of the somatosensory cortex of ketamine/xylazine anesthetized rats. After implantation, various qualitative and quantitative properties of the recorded cortical activity were compared across different speeds in an acute manner. Our results demonstrate that after the slowest insertion both the signal-to-noise ratio and the number of separable single units were significantly higher compared with those measured after inserting probes at faster speeds. Furthermore, the amplitude of recorded spikes as well as the quality of single unit clusters showed similar speed-dependent differences. Post hoc quantification of the neuronal density around the probe track showed a significantly higher number of NeuN-labelled cells after the slowest insertion compared with the fastest insertion. Our findings suggest that advancing rigid probes slowly (~1 µm/s) into the brain tissue might result in less tissue damage, and thus in neuronal recordings of improved quality compared with measurements obtained after inserting probes with higher speeds.
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