Scientists have developed electrodes for point observations of the work of neurons, which are located at a great depth in the brain
In the United States, biotechnologists from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) have developed a new type of flexible electrodes that allow observing the work of 128 neurons located deep in the brain. With the help of a new device, neurophysiologists will be able to observe the brain of epileptics outside medical institutions.
The development is ultra-thin tapes made of several layers of polymer material, between which there are conductive layers made of alloys of gold and chromium, platinum and silver. Electrodes contact nerve cells through special holes punched in the polymer shell. This allows each electrode to interact pointwise with only a small number of neurons.
Biotechnologists are focusing on using the technology to observe the brains of patients with intractable epilepsy, according to UCSD professor Shadi Daye. The final goal of the research is that by 2026, with the help of the development, it will be possible to conduct completely remote observations of the activity of patients’ neurons, first in clinics, and then in a home environment for a long time.
The conducted experiments showed that these designs have a very high level of flexibility and strength. Creation of such electrodes up to 15 centimeters long is possible using existing methods. The devices themselves can be implanted in the deep layers of the brain.
Initially, researchers conducted experiments on pigs and other model animals. These experiments showed that the new electrodes are able to simultaneously read signals coming from 128 different cells. Next, the development was tested on two volunteers who underwent operations to remove tumors from the brain. The scientists implanted the devices in the thick brains of the participants of the experiment, which made it possible to successfully count the signals from a large number of single neurons located in the cortex and in the deep layers of the parietal and temporal lobes of the brain.
Researchers hope that their development will soon help neurophysiologists study the mechanisms of development of epileptic seizures and other disorders in the work of the nervous system. Theoretically, the use of electrodes is possible in the fight against malfunctions in the nervous system, using them not only to read nerve impulses, but also to control the work of individual neurons.