Ultra-thin Brain Implant Could Treat Neurological and Psychiatric Illness

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Reflecting a convergence of skills and advances in electrical engineering, materials science and neurosurgery, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia have developed a flexible brain implant that conforms to the brain’s surface and may make possible a whole new generation of brain-computer interfaces for treating neurological and psychiatric illness and research.

Brain array

The electrode array is made of a pliable material only about one-quarter the thickness of a human hair. It contains 360 amplified and multiplexed electrodes, which allows for minimal wiring (only 39 wires are needed to sample all the electrodes simultaneously). The flexible, foldable device can be situated not only on the brain surface but also inside grooves and fissures or even between the cortical hemispheres, areas that are physically inaccessible to conventional rigid electrode arrays.

Recently tested in animal models, the array recorded spiral waves of brain activity during epileptic seizures not previously observed. The patterns resemble those seen in the heart during ventricular fibrillation, raising the possibility of fighting epilepsy with some of the same methods used to treat cardiac arrhythmias, like focal destruction or ablation of abnormal circuits.

According to Brian Litt, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and principal investigator of a study appearing in the November edition of 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. 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.

Source: Penn Medicine

About the Author

Walter Jessen is a senior writer for Highlight HEALTH Media.