Automated Patch Clamp Electrophysiology of Neurons in the Living Brain

Friday, February 28, 2014 - 2:00pm
Fung Auditorium | Powell-Focht Bioengineering Hall
Craig Forest

Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering

Georgia Institute of Technology

Automated Patch Clamp Electrophysiology of Neurons in the Living Brain


Whole-cell patch clamp electrophysiology of neurons in vivo enables the recording of electrical events in cells with great precision, and supports a wide diversity of cellular morphological and molecular analysis experiments. However, high levels of skill are required in order to perform in vivo patching, and the process is time-consuming and painstaking. An automated in vivo patching robot would not only empower a great number of neuroscientists to perform such experiments, but would also open up fundamentally new kinds of experiment enabled by the resultant high throughput. We discovered that in vivo blind whole cell patch clamp electrophysiology could be implemented as a straightforward algorithm, and developed an automated robotic system capable of performing this algorithm. We validated the performance of our robot in both the cortex and hippocampus of anesthetized and awake mice. Our robot achieves yields, cell recording qualities, and operational speeds that are comparable to, or exceed, those of experienced human investigators, and is simple and inexpensive to implement. Recent developments include coupling "autopatching" to optogenetics, recording multiple neurons simultaneously, and patching deep structures including mouse brain stem.


Craig Forest joined Georgia Tech in August 2008 as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and also holds program faculty positions in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering. He conducts research on miniaturized, high-throughput robotic instrumentation to advance neuroscience and genetic science, working at the intersection of bioMEMS, precision machine design, optics, and microfabrication. Prior to Georgia Tech, he was a research fellow in Genetics at Harvard Medical School. He obtained a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in June 2007, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2003, and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2001. He is cofounder/organizer of one of the largest undergraduate invention competitions in the US—The InVenture Prize, and founder/organizer of one of the largest student-run prototyping facilities in the US— The Invention Studio. He was a Sandia National Laboratories MEMS Fellow, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, was awarded the Georgia Tech Institute for BioEngineering and BioSciences Junior Faculty Award (2010) and was named Engineer of the Year in Education for the state of Georgia (2013). In 2007, he was a finalist on the ABC reality TV show "American Inventor.”