Ultrathin Brain-Computer Interfaces advance

ssd-memory A study published recently in the April issue of Nature Materials has shown some advances in the area of creating better interfaces for sensing neurological and brain neural activity. In the study, neurologists implanted a silk based, ultrathin Brain Computer Interface mesh onto the visual processing area of a cats brain. “Dissolvable films of silk fibroin for ultrathin conformal bio-integrated electronics”, [link] by Brian Litt and John A. Rogers (Neurologists, University of Pennsylvania) details a process by which the authors printed an electrode array 2.5 microns thick onto a dissolvable silk film substrate. When the flexible array was placed onto the convoluted cat brain surface, the electrodes conformed closely to cover the surface area:

The team found that the mesh-like device conforms perfectly to the contours on a model of the human brain. When tested on the visual processing area of the cat’s brain, the flexible array—about one 40th of the thickness of a sheet of paper—faithfully recorded neural activity for about a month without causing inflammation. By increasing the contact between the electrodes and brain tissue, the system produced better signals compared with more rigid electrode arrays, which are about 30 times thicker. [full article]

As sensors such as the Pokewalker and the new breed of physical control/measurement interfaces become an even stronger market due to the vast consumer desire for sensor data and feedback about their own health, and aside from homemade augmented reality glasses kits [link], advances in human-electronic interfaces dont just have the potential for measurement and understanding:

“Its full potential remains to be seen in long-term BCI studies,” Morrison said. “Currently, there are no BCIs that use such compliant mesh electrodes, and the potential is pretty big that the implant array will provide a neural interface that is stable over a long period of time.”

The scientists would like to extend their findings by making fully dissolvable implantable electronics for monitoring and stimulating tissue growth. They have also developed rolled-up devices, which they could deliver to the brain without making large holes in the skull during surgery. Eventually, they hope to adapt the technology for retinal and cochlear implants and to treat patients with a wide range of psychiatric and neurological diseases. [full article]

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