To record neural electrical signals, extracellular neural probes are inserted into nervous tissues (e.g. brain, spinal cord). Neural probes are (usually) multi-channel arrays able to record from multiple contacts simultaneously, spanning from a few channels (e.g. tetrodes) to high-density silicon probes (e.g. Neuropixels - with up to 384 recording channels).

These probes (especially silicon probes) generally have a complex layout (or geometry) and can be connected to the recording system in multiple ways (wiring). To connect a neural probe to a recording device (e.g. Open Ephys, Blackrock, Ripple, Plexon, Intan, Multi-channel System) a headstage is used that is connected to the main recording device.

The complexity of the probe wiring and device wiring leads to the difficult task of directly linking the physical contacts on the probe and the logical channel indices on the device.

Recent spike sorting (i.e. methods to extract single neurons’ activity from the extracellular recordings) algorithms strongly rely on the probe geometry to exploit the spatial distribution of the contacts and improve their performance.

Therefore, there is a need to correctly handle probe geometry and the wiring to the recording device in an easy-to-use and standardized way.

As an example, imagine you have:
  • a Neuronexus A1x32-Poly2 probe

  • with the intan RHD2132 headstage using the omnetics 1315 connector

  • connected on the port B of an Open Ephys board

What would be your final channel mapping be?

Of course one can sit down in the lab and try to figure it out… The goal of probeinterface is to make this time-consuming and error-prone process easier and standardized.


The scope of this project is to handle one (or several) Probe with three simple python classes:

These classes handle:
  • probe geometry (2D or 3D contact layout)

  • probe planar contours (polygon)

  • shape and size of the contacts

  • probe wiring to the recording device

  • combination of several probes: global geometry + global wiring

This package also provide:
  • read/write to a common format (JSON based)

  • read/write function to other existing formats (PRB, NWB, CSV, MEArec, SpikeGLX, …)

  • plotting routines

  • generator functions to create user-defined probes

Goal 1

This common interface could be used by several projects for spike sorting and electrophysiology analysis:

  • SpikeInterface: integrate this into spikeextractors to handle channel location and wiring

  • NEO: handle array_annotations for AnalogSignal

  • SpikeForest: use this package for plotting probe activity

  • Phy: integrate for probe display

  • SpyKING Circus: handle probe with this package

  • Kilosort: handle probe with this package

  • …and more

Goal 2

Implement and maintain a collection of widely used probes in Neuroscience, for example:

We have started a work-in-progess repo with a probe library

Existing projects

probeinterface is not the first attempt to build a library of available probes. Here is a list of available resources:

All of these projects only describe the contact positions. Furthermore there is a strong ambiguity for users between the contact index on the probe and the channel index on device. This could lead to a wrong interpretation of the wiring.

With probeinterface we try to provide a unified framework for probe description, handling, and a comprehensive probe library.


The probeinterface is inspired on the MEAutility package, written by Alessio Buccino.

While the general idea of having an enhanced probe description is present, the MEAutility package mainly focuses on handling probes for modeling purposes, hence missing the wiring concept, and it can only handle a single probe at a time.

With probeinterface the focus is also to combine several Probes and to handle complex wiring for experimental description.