With partners in the European FP6 Program NeuroProbes, Imec unveils an innovative neural probe (see figure) that is capable of both sensing and stimulating individual brain cells. The probe relies on what Imec and partners call Electronic Depth Control (EDC) technology, which enables individual adjustment of the position of different electrodes without requiring any mechanical displacement.
For detecting single neurons in the brain, the electrodes need to be positioned very close to the neuron, 100 µm or less. Until now, this was a task undertaken using multi-electrode probes. The process relies heavily on trial and error, because of the inability to position the electrodes independently of each other.
The EDC neural probe employs hundreds of electronically switchable electrodes, allowing users to scan for the most pertinent signals, lock onto them, and configure their positions for a particular test or experiment. Applications of the new technology are vast, ranging from tools for fundamental research on the functioning of the brain, to instruments for more precise diagnosis of brain seizures before brain-surgery. According Herc Neves, Imec scientist and NeuroProbes project coordinator, “It is known that similar probes have been used for decades to discover the focus of an epileptic seizure, for example. You have a patient that is about to be operated on, and you want to remove as little tissue as possible. By pinpointing where the seizure is generated, you remove only that tissue, resulting in safer and less invasive surgery.”
For further information, contact Hanne Degans, Imec’s External Communications Officer, at +32 16 28 17 69 or via email at [email protected].