Technology with attitude

Flexible, Ultrathin Sensor Device Conforms to the Brain’s Unique Shape

A team of researchers co-led by the University of Pennsylvania has developed and tested a new high-resolution, ultra-thin device capable of recording brain activity from the cortical surface without having to use invasive electrodes. The device could make possible a whole new generation of brain-computer interfaces for treating neurological and psychiatric illness and research. The work was published in Nature Neuroscience.

“The new technology we have created can conform to the brain’s unique geometry, and records and maps activity at resolutions that have not been possible before,” says Brian Litt, MD, the study’s senior author.

“Using this device, we can explore the brain networks underlying normal function and disease with much more precision, and its likely to change our understanding of memory, vision, hearing and many other normal functions and diseases.”

For our patients, implantable brain devices could be inserted in less invasive operations and, by mapping circuits involved in epilepsy, paralysis, depression and other ‘network brain disorders’ in sufficient detail, this could allow us to intervene to make patients better, Litt said.

The electrode array allows close contact with the brain. (Photo: Travis Ross and Yun Soung Kim, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Composed of 720 silicon nanomembrane transistors in a multiplexed 360-channel array, the newly designed ultrathin, flexible, foldable device can be positioned not only on the brain surface but also inside sulci (a depression or fissure in the surface of the brain) and other areas that are physically inaccessible to conventional rigid electrode arrays.

The multiplexed nanosensors of the new device can cover a much large brain area with high resolution, while using almost ten times fewer wires than current sensors.

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