Neural Probes That Mimic Real Neurons May Revolutionize Brain-Computer Interfaces

Neural probes are some of the best tools for studying how the brain functions, and they also have great potential for therapeutic applications. Brain-computer interfaces can allow paralyzed people to regain function and even locked-in patients may soon be able to communicate with the rest of the world. Though there’s a great deal of progress in the underlying technologies, including signal processing and interpretation, the very probes that make contact with the brain are currently probably the most important limitation.

The brain is highly defensive, aggressively attacking anything that invades its space. In the process, inflammation is a common result, neurons die, and the neural probes lose their functional ability. To overcome this, researchers at Harvard University have developed neural probes that mimic neurons so closely that the brain accepts them as native and refrains from attacking them. According to the university, the researchers “blurred the line between human and machine.”

The bioinspired probes replicate the subcellular structure of real neurons, as well as their mechanical characteristics. The probes were designed to have the same shape, size, and pliability as healthy neurons found in the brain. This seems to prevent the immune system from reacting to the new probes, something that 3D imaging, histology, and electrophysiology techniques have confirmed.

By integrating the new neural probes with existing brain-computer interfaces, it may soon be possible for patients to benefit from this technology over extended periods of time without suffering from serious side effects.

Study in Nature Materials: Bioinspired neuron-like electronics…

Via: Harvard…

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