A Brain-Recording Device that Melts into Place
NIH-funded researchers have developed a brain implant made partly of silk that “melts” onto the brain's surface and is capable of recording brain activity. The technology could be used to develop seizure control devices and brain-computer interfaces.
Akinso: Scientists have developed a brain recording device that essentially melts into place according to a NIH study.
Stewart: The point of the study was to design a flexible electrode array so that it would be possible to make the best electrical contact with brain tissue.
Akinso: Dr. Randall Stewart is a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Stewart: In this paper the authors placed a 5x6 array of recording electrodes on a thin layer of polyimide—polyimide is a flexible plastic resin. This combination was then placed on a sheet of silk to make it easier to manipulate the electronics. And this component of the silk is it provides strength and it come be dissolved away. Now how did it impact the study? After you put the electrode array in place then you can put a salt solution on, it dissolve the silk away. And then that allows good electrical contact of the electrodes that remain behind. What that does is the thin film adheres to the brain, it conforms to the brain and allows good electrical contact.
Akinso: Researchers approached the design of a brain implant by first optimizing the mechanics of silk films and their ability to hug the brain. They tested electrode arrays of vary thickness on complex objects, brain models and ultimately in the brains of living, anesthetized animals.
Stewart: The idea here was to show that you can make high quality recordings of the brain's electrical activity.
Akinso: Dr. Stewart says this technology could pave the way for better devices to monitor and control seizures and to transmit signals from the brain past damaged parts of the spinal cord.
Stewart: This electrical recording device, you can use it to help patients with spinal cord injuries, as an example. You can place it on the brain, detect the signals that the brain produces and then use those signals to activate muscles or perhaps prosthetic devices.
Akinso: The study was supported by the NINDS, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. For more information, visit www.ninds.nih.gov. This is Wally Akinso at the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland.