Newswise — WASHINGTON — For decades, neuroscience has been advancing with the use of electrodes in the brains of laboratory specimens. The common silicon-based electrodes are made using established manufacturing methods, but they can injure the brain. These issues are avoided by more flexible polymer-based electrodes. However, they can be difficult to scale up when integrating light emitters for nerve stimulation.
Researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a method for building optoelectrodes. It seems to combine the best of both worlds. The scientists showed that it was possible to create a semiflexible light emitting electrode by removing the silicon material underneath the probe’s tip.
The optoelectrode is a device that can be used to study deep brain tissues and record signals from individual nerve cell signals. It also stimulates small groups of neurons using state-of the-art techniques like optical waveguides.
” It is difficult to implant polymer probes into the brain. However, we have developed a very easy fabrication technique to overcome this problem,” stated Vittorino Lanzio. They are easier to insert because they don’t need to be glued on a silicon ortungsten shuttle. This increases the device’s footprint during insertion. “
Optoelectrodes are currently reserved for short-term use in laboratory animals. Although the new electrode is a significant step towards better biocompatibility it still needs to be improved to allow long-term electrode usage for humans.
Even at rest, the brain is constantly being jogged by minute movements like breathing and blood pulses. Microscopically small changes can cause brain damage and disrupt electrode performance. These injuries can cause immune cells to react and disrupt electrode function.
” The brain’s consistency is more fluid than jelly,” stated Stefano Cabrini.
The optoelectrode is composed of oxide glass and silicon nitride. To remove silicon beneath the device’s insertion area, the group uses nanoscale etching.
The semiflexible device was tested in experiments with rats. It packs 64 individual electrons and high-density photos into a smaller cross-sectional space and can be inserted directly into the brain of a rat without the use of a silicon ortungsten shuttle. The researchers hope that neuroscientists will put the new device to use and incorporate more functionality into electrodes. This could include microfluidics to deliver chemicals to the brain.
The article “Neural optoelectrodes merging semiconductor scalability with polymeric-like bendability for low damage acute in vivo neuron readout and stimulation” is authored by Vittorino Lanzio, Vanessa Gutierrez, John Hermiz, Kristofer Bouchard, and Stefano Cabrini. The article will appear in Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B on Nov. 23, 2021 (DOI: 10.1116/6.0001269). After that date, it can be accessed at https://aip.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1116/6.0001269.
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Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology B, an AVS journal published by AIP Publishing, is devoted to publishing reports of original research, letters, and review articles covering multiple disciplines with a focus on microelectronics and nanotechnology. See https://avs.scitation.org/journal/jvb.
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