The carbon fiber electrodes could be the keystone for those suffering from some pathologies: they could allow people with prostheses to be in control; they would be able to stimulate the sacral nerve to restore bladder control is stimulate the cervical vagus nerve to treat epilepsy is provide deep brain stimulation as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s.
The development of this plant of the biomedical technology is due to the experts of University of Michigan which demonstrated in rats, following the transplantation of a tiny implantable carbon fiber electrode, the potential to provide along-term brain-computer interface capable of capturing the range and nuances of electrical signals over long periods of time.
There Research was published in the latest edition of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering
Carbon fiber electrodes: what are the real benefits?
The new research has shown that carbon fiber electrodes are able to deliver electrical signals from a mouse’s brain to an external computer without damaging brain tissue. Direct implantation of carbon fiber electrodes into the brain captures larger and more specific signals than current technologies.
“There are interfaces that can be implanted directly into the brain but, for a variety of reasons, they only last from months to a few years “, he has declared Elissa Welle, expert who participated in the research, graduated from the Department of Biomedical Engineering UM. “Every time you open your skull for a procedure that involves the brain, it’s a big deal. “
The silicon it is most widely used in today’s brain implants due to its ability to conduct electricity and its historical use in cleanroom technology. But the human body sees silicon as a foreign substance, which means it will lead to the formulation of scar tissue for long periods. Eventually it will degrade and no longer capture brain signals, requiring removal.
The electrodes in carbon fiber can be the answer to getting high quality signals with an interface that lasts years, not months. Carbon is one of the key elements of the body, present in organic molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates is fat, and by laser cutting and sharpening carbon fibers into tiny subcellular electrodes in the lab with the help of a small blowtorch, Unified Messaging engineers have harnessed the potential for excellent signal acquisition in a form that is more likely that the body accepts.
“After the implant, yes establishes inside the brain in a way that does not interfere with the surrounding blood vessels, because it is smaller than those blood vessels “, Welle said. “The electrodes in fiber carbon sthey will move and adapt to such a small object, rather than tear as they would when encountering larger implants. “
The smaller size explains part of the electrode compatibility in brain tissue, but its own needle-like shape it can also minimize compaction of any surrounding tissue. Larger carbon electrodes have been shown to exist in the body and actually encourage neural tissue to grow rather than degrade. The UM team hopes that further tests reveal similar potential for their carbon fiber electrodes in the brain and nerves.
Previous work by the UM team demonstrated the electrode’s ability to capture signals from a mouse’s brain. In a previous study, carbon fiber electrodes clearly outperformed conventional silicon electrodes with 34% of the electrodes recording a neuronal signal compared to 3%. Laser cutting therefore improved this number by up to 71 percent nine weeks after implant. Flame sharpening has now enabled these high-performance probes to be implanted directly into the cerebral cortex, eliminating the need for a temporary insertion aid, or shuttle, as well as the rat cervical vagus nerve.
The brain, with its large, flat surface, is relatively easy to insert into the electrodes. But UM engineers have also taken on the more difficult task of inserting the sharp carbon fiber electrodes into the nerves, with diameters that can be as small as the thickness of several strands of hair.
These results show that the potential of UM electrodes goes beyond prosthetic manipulation, second Cindy Chestek, associate professor of biomedical engineering and principal investigator of The Cortical Neural Prosthetics Lab.
“Someone who is paralyzed may have no control over things like the bladder, for example,” Chestek said. “We may be able to use these smaller electrodes to stimulate and record signals from areas that cannot be reached by the larger ones, perhaps the neck or spinal cord, to help give patients some level of control. “