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Neural Interfaces

MEMS microelectrodes are commonly used for electrophysiological recording. Since they allow multichannel recording and stimulation at small area of the tissues, they can be used as neural interfaces between biological and artificial organs such as neural prosthetic devices. Recently polymer materials such as polyimide, Parylene, SU-8 and PDMS, are often employed for the structures of flexible probes, because they can fit to the tissues and deform its shape along with the organs. Consequently, they realize a less invasive implantation compared to conventional rigid silicon microelectrodes. Here, we study a flexible neural probe with microfluidic channels. We believe that it will be useful for both electrical and chemical stimulation/detection of the neural tissues.

Fabrication of Flexible Neural Probes With Built-In Microfluidic Channels by Thermal Bonding of Parylene

This paper describes the fabrication technology and characterization of Parylene neural probes containing fluidic channels for delivery of small amounts of drugs into biological tissue as well as neural recording. We present a first attempt to realize such neural probes by micromolding and thermal bonding of Parylene. Compared to the common fabrication method, where a sacrificial photoresist layer is sandwiched between two Parylene layers, the major advantages of this process are, that the time consuming photoresist dissolution is omitted, and that the adhesion between the Parylene layers could be improved. The electrodes were characterized by impedance measurements, in which an impedance sufficiently low for neural recording was observed. Fluidic injection experiments with the microchannel have shown that nanoliter volumes can be injected.

Parylene flexible neural probes integrated with microfluidic channels

The fluidic channel in the flexible probe has three functions: (i) to inject chemicals into the tissues, (ii) to measure the neural activities from the tissues, and (iii) to improve the mechanical stiffness of the probe by filling the channel with a solid material. A 10-microm-thick microfluidic channel was embedded into the probe by using sacrificial photoresist patterns. Polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is solid at room temperature and dissolves when in contact with water, was used to fill the channel and increase the stiffness of the probe before insertion into the tissue. The impedance of the electrode inside the fluidic channel was around 100 kOmega at 1 kHz when the channel was filled with saline solution. We were able to insert the probe into a rat’s brain and measure the neural signals with the electrode.

3D flexible multichannel neural probe array

A 3D flexible multichannel microprobe array was designed, fabricated and tested. Since each probe had several recording pads, the probe array could be used to measure neural activity at various depths in the brain. They were batch fabricated with interconnections, using a specific folding process to fold the planar probe structures. This flexible probe array was inserted into a rat’s brain without fracturing and was successfully used to measure neural signals.

A radio-telemetry system with a shape memory alloy microelectrode for neural recording of freely moving insects

A radio frequency (RF) telemetry system with a shape memory alloy microelectrode was designed and fabricated. The total size and weight are 15 mm x 8 mm and 0.1 g, respectively. Since the telemeter is small and light enough to be loaded on a small animal such as an insect, the system can be used for the neural recording of a freely moving insect. The RF-telemeter can transmit signals by frequency modulation transmission at 80-90 MHz. The transmitted signals can be received up to about 16 meters away from the telemeter with a high signal-to-noise ratio. The neural activity can be detected without attenuation by using an instrumentation amplifier with its input impedance set to 2 Mohms at 1 kHz. The telemeter was loaded on a cockroach and the neural activity during a free-walk was successfully measured through this telemetry system.

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