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Several multi-electrode array devices integrating planar metal electrodes were designed in the past 30 years for extracellular stimulation and recording from cultured neuronal cells and organotypic brain slices. However, these devices are not well suited for recordings from acute brain slice preparations due to a dead cell layer at the tissue slice border that appears during the cutting procedure. To overcome this problem, we propose the use of protruding 3D electrodes, i.e. tip-shaped electrodes, allowing tissue penetration in order to get closer to living neurons in the tissue slice. In this paper, we describe the design and fabrication of planar and 3D protruding multi-electrode arrays. The electrical differences between planar and 3D protruding electrode configuration were simulated and verified experimentally. Finally, a comparison between the planar and 3D protruding electrode configuration was realized by stimulation and recording from acute rat hippocampus slices. The results show that larger signal amplitudes in the millivolt range can be obtained with the 3D electrode devices. Spikes corresponding to single cell activity could be monitored in the hippocampus CA3 and CA1 region using 3D electrodes. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.