Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created a brain-computer interface network comprising micro-needles attached to a flexible support. The design allows the grating to better conform to the corrugated surface of the brain, allowing better contact and signal registration over a wide area. The technology represents an upgrade from the rigid networks typically used so far, and the researchers hope the technology could improve users’ ability to control external devices, from wheelchairs to prosthetic limbs.
Brain-computer interfaces hold enormous potential for patients with missing limbs and those with mobility issues in controlling assistive technologies, such as motorized wheelchairs. However, linking silicon and metal to flesh and blood is a challenge, and the typical rigidity and uniformity of computer components does not allow for a perfect match with the soft, non-uniform tissues of our nervous system.
This latest technology aims to improve upon conventional microneedle-based brain-computer interface equipment, which typically consists of a rigid network that does not conform particularly well to the surface of the brain. Such rigid arrays can lead to brain tissue irritation and loss of signal when the microneedles do not properly penetrate the underlying tissues.
The new array uses a flexible backing, and the iterations produced to date contain 1,024 microneedles that are each ten times thinner than a human hair. So far, researchers have tested the array in rodents and have been able to obtain recordings for the implant’s 196-day lifespan, suggesting the technology is suitable for long-term implantation. Amazingly, the network uses ten times more microneedles than existing technologies and can cover an area of the brain ten times larger.
To create the arrays, the researchers start with a rigid silicon wafer and add the required circuitry to it. They then apply a flexible film to the wafer before etching the silicon, leaving thin columns of silicon, which act like micro-needles.
Researchers hope the arrays will help improve brain-computer interface systems, including facilitating more advanced closed-loop systems, where a prosthetic user could receive real-time haptic feedback on items they touch. using a prosthesis controlled by the brain-computer interface. .
Study in Advanced functional materials: Scalable Thousand-Channel Penetrating Microneedle Arrays on Flex for Wide Area, Multimodal BrainMachine Interfaces
Flashbacks: flexible self-adhesive electrode array accurately records brain activity for epilepsy surgery; A flexible electrode array penetrates inside your brain; A new type of flexible electronics becomes flexible when implanted in the body; Highly stretchable electrodes for electronic interfacing with body tissues;
Via: University of California San Diego
Image: Artist’s rendering of the new brain-computer interface’s flexible, conformable, and seamless support with penetrating microneedles developed by a team led by engineers at the University of California, San Diego in the electrical engineering professor’s lab Shadi Dayeh. retweet: Shadi Dayeh / UC San Diego / SayoStudio