Brain surface temperature under a craniotomy
Many neuroscientists access surface brain structures via a small cranial window, opened in the bone above the brain region of interest. Unfortunately this methodology has the potential to perturb the structure and function of the underlying brain tissue. One potential perturbation is heat loss from the brain surface, which may result in local dysregulation of brain temperature. Here, we demonstrate that heat loss is a significant problem in a cranial window preparation in common use for electrical recording and imaging studies in mice. In the absence of corrective measures, the exposed surface of the neocortex was at ∼28°C, ∼10°C below core body temperature, and a standing temperature gradient existed, with tissue below the core temperature even several millimeters into the brain. Cooling affected cellular and network function in neocortex and resulted principally from increased heat loss due to convection and radiation through the skull and cranial window. We demonstrate that constant perfusion of solution, warmed to 37°C, over the brain surface readily corrects the brain temperature, resulting in a stable temperature of 36–38°C at all depths. Our results indicate that temperature dysregulation may be common in cranial window preparations that are in widespread use in neuroscience, underlining the need to take measures to maintain the brain temperature in many physiology experiments.