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New ultrathin implant melts onto surface of the brain


Silk-based electrodes that wrap around the folds of the brain could offer a better solution for monitoring and controlling seizures, according to findings published yesterday in Nature Materials.

The implant consists of metal electrodes that are 500 microns thick and are printed onto a mesh base of polyimide and silk. Once the implant is inserted, the mesh base dissolves and the remaining array hugs the brain like shrink wrap. (The image on the right shows a neural electrode array wrapping onto a model of the brain.)

The study's results showed the ultrathin implant recorded brain activity more effectively than thicker alternatives embedded with similar electronics. Wired Science reports:

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.

In addition to easing seizures, the technology could be used to read complex signals in the brain and transmit that data to healthy muscles or prosthetic devices.

Photo by C. Conway and J. Rogers, Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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