Researchers in the US and China have developed a new brain implant that can monitor the activity of individual brain cells at a much higher resolution than was previously possible. Their work is published in the leading scientific journal, Science AdvancesAccording to Senior Author Dr György Buzsáki, at New York University, the implant could help recognise pathological activities in the brain such as epilepsy.This could potentially be beneficial in epilepsy surgery, where pinpointing the exact origin or ‘focus’ of seizures (for removal) is vital, but often difficult. It could also assist with other therapeutic strategies that specifically target particular areas of the brain.The implant, which the scientists called ‘NeuroGrid’, is a very thin (four micrometre thick) polymer grid that can record electrical signals from an area of 420 mm2. It has 120 conductive electrodes connected to a silicon chip, which amplifies the signal coming from the brain and sends it to a computer.The new system offers several advantages over existing set-ups, for example it is cheaper and more comfortable than rigid electrode grids, which need to stay on the brain for up to two weeks, potentially causing inflammation.The researchers tested the new grid in people who were undergoing epilepsy surgery, by temporarily inserting it onto the surface of the brain and recording electrical activity. They found that the grid was able to record individual brain cells ‘firing’.Dr Mikhail Lebedev, a neuroscientist at Duke University, who was not involved in the study, commented that the new technique could “allow (neuroscientists) to localize the epileptic focus more accurately”.It is important to note that the technique is still in its infancy and more work is needed before it can be used in the clinic. The researchers are hoping to make the grid smaller, and to take longer recordings from the brains of people with epilepsy.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.
November 11th, 2016|