A team of engineers, neurosurgeons and medical researchers has published data from both humans and rats demonstrating that new arrays of brain sensors can record electrical signals directly from the surface of the human brain in record-breaking detail. The new brain sensors feature densely packed grids of either 1,024 or 2,048 embedded electrocorticography (ECoG) sensors.
High-resolution recordings of electrical signals from the surface of the brain could improve neurosurgeons' ability to remove brain tumors and treat epilepsy, and could open up new possibilities for medium- and longer- term brain-computer interfaces. The paper was published by the journal Science Translational Medicine on January 19, 2022.
These thin, pliable grids of ECoG sensors, if approved for clinical use, would offer neurosurgeons brain-signal information directly from the surface of the brain's cortex in 100 times higher resolution than what is available today. Access to this highly detailed perspective on which specific areas of the tissue at the brain’s surface, or cerebral cortex, are active, and when, could provide better guidance for planning surgeries to remove brain tumors and surgically treat drug-resistant epilepsy. Longer term, the team is working on wireless versions of these high resolution ECoG grids that could be used for up to 30 days of brain monitoring for people with intractable epilepsy.
The technology also holds potential for permanent implantation to improve the quality of life of people who live with paralysis or other neurodegenerative diseases that can be treated with electrical stimulation such as in Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and the neurological movement disorder called dystonia.
The new sensors contain platinum nano-rods. While using platinum-based sensors for recording electrical activity from neurons in the brain is not new, using nanoscale platinum rods is a new approach being developed by this team. The nano-rod shape offers more sensing surface area than flat platinum sensors, which helps to make the sensors more sensitive.
The project is led by electrical engineering professor Shadi Dayeh at the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. The team of engineers, neurosurgeons and medical researchers hails from UC San Diego; Massachusetts General Hospital; and Oregon Health & Science University.
The team is working on a range of initiatives in parallel to advance these grids so that they are eligible for review for approval for short-, medium- and longer-term use. For example, the team, led by UC San Diego electrical engineering professor Shadi Dayeh, was awarded a $12.25 Million NIH Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative grant focused on developing the sensing system to the point that the next step will be a clinical trial for people with treatment-resistant epilepsy. This grant also funds efforts to make the system wireless, which would be important for creating implantable grids for medium- and longer- term use.
Dayeh developed the sensors primarily with the support of a 2019 NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (1DP2EB029757-01).
Additional National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for this work includes support through the following awards: The NIH Brain Initiative R01NS123655-01, UG3NS123723-01 and NIDA R01-DA050159.
Source: Condensed summary of a press release by Daniel Kane, UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
Image Credit: David Baillot / UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering