MAR 24, 2020 3:05 PM PDT

Researchers Use Silicon to Record Electrical Signals Between Neurons

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from Stanford University have created a way to connect the brain directly to silicon-based technologies. Hoping to assist the development of medical technologies such as prosthetics and devices that assist speech and vision, the researchers say that their tool is less intrusive than current options. 

Abdulmalik Obaid, one of the study’s authors, said, “Nobody has taken these 2D silicon electronics and matched them to the three-dimensional architecture of the brain before...We had to throw out what we already know about conventional chip fabrication and design new processes to bring silicon electronics into the third dimension. And we had to do it in a way that could scale up easily.”

Based on modified silicon chips from cameras, the new device makes use of an array of microwires, each at the width of a half the thinnest human hair. These wires are gently inserted into the brain and directly connected to a silicon device outside. The new device is then used to record the brain’s electrical activity as it passes between the wires. Currently, it is made up of hundreds of microwires, although the researchers say that such devices of the future may contain thousands. 

Co-senior author of the research, Nick Melosh, said, “Electrical activity is one of the highest-resolution ways of looking at brain activity...With this microwire array, we can see what’s happening on the single-neuron level."

At present, the device has only been tested on isolated retinal cells from rats and mice. Although having received meaningful signals from both animals, it is nevertheless some way off from being tested on humans. The researchers nevertheless hope to test their device on animals in longer-term studies, and investigate other kinds of data their device may be able to detect as well as how long it can remain in the brain. In particular, the researchers are interested in seeing what these signals can reveal about how we learn. 

Co-author of the paper, Jun Ding, said “The design of this device is completely different from any existing high-density recording devices, and the shape, size and density of the array can be simply varied during fabrication. This means that we can simultaneously record different brain regions at different depths with virtually any 3D arrangement...If applied broadly, this technology will greatly excel our understanding of brain function in health and disease states.”

 

Sources: Interesting Engineering, Stanford University, Science Advances  

 

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in public relations and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
You May Also Like
DEC 23, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 23, 2019
FDA Approves New Schizophrenic Drug
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an atypical antipsychotic Caplyta (lumateperone; Intra-Cellular Therapies) for the treating schizoph...
DEC 30, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 30, 2019
Chinese Scientists Implant Genes for Human Intelligence in Monkeys
Scientists from China and the US have implanted a human gene linked to intelligence in the genomes of macaque monkeys. The first experiment of its kind, th...
JAN 06, 2020
Cardiology
JAN 06, 2020
Online Therapy Treats Depression in Heart Disease Patients
People suffering from cardiovascular disease (CVD) often suffer from depression too- something that can lead to a vicious cycle in which CVD can be negativ...
FEB 03, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 03, 2020
Brain Organoids May Not be Living Up to the Hype
Cells can be grown in special ways to create three-dimensional, miniature models of organs. But how good are they?...
FEB 24, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 24, 2020
How Brain Cells Can Protect Muscles
Protein buildup is not only a problem for the brain, it can also impair muscles....
MAR 03, 2020
Neuroscience
MAR 03, 2020
Scientists Use Electrical Pulses to Switch Consciousness On and Off in Monkeys
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that it’s possible to wake a monkey out of a deeply anesthetized sleep by electricall...
Loading Comments...