今天，世界领先的纳米电子和数字技术研究与创新中心 imec 在 imec 科技论坛 (ITF) 医疗大会上宣布，其在大型欧盟项目 NeuroSeeker 框架内设计和制造出一款具有创纪录电极密度的神经探针显示仪。该探针采用硅晶芯片技术设计和制造，适用于可塑造神经科学未来的突破性生物接口和植入物。凭借数百个能够接触和读取单个神经元数据的电极，该探针集成了可更好地了解大脑的创新技术，并将最终促成可应对人类脑部疾病的诊断和假体工具的诞生。
Marleen Welkenhuysen, NeuroSeeker project manager at imec, commented: “Our goal was to fabricate a brain probe that would enable a breakthrough in the level of detail by which micro circuits of the brain cortex and also deep brain structures can be studied. Previous probes were severely restricted in the number of signals that could be captured simultaneously which limited their use as a basis for research and therapeutic tools. With this new probe, we demonstrate that it is possible to create powerful electronics that can interface with the brain on the level of small neuronal circuits and even individual neurons.”
35 percent of all diseases are brain diseases and after the age of 80, there is 90 percent probability that you will suffer from a brain disorder. To find a cure for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, we need a better insight in how the human brain, which is composed of around 80 billion interconnected cells that compute and relay signals chemically and electrically, works. Therefore, we need tools that align with the size and density of the brain network to measure what is going on in the brain and to influence brain activity. Nanofabrication with silicon chip technology, which is capable of realizing ultra-small sensing and activating electrodes at an unprecedented density on a very small surface, is up to the task. Scientists are now learning how to pack the required functionality and density in biocompatible packages for neuroscience applications, following a path similar to Moore’s Law for computer chips. Imec’s new demonstrator neural probe is a stepping stone on that path.
Imec’s NeuroSeeker probe has the size of a chip package and consists of a base chip and protruding needle. The needle is biocompatible and extremely thin (8mm long, 50µm thick, and 100μm wide), to reduce damage to the brain tissue. Along the needle’s shaft hundreds of electrodes are arranged, each a tiny square measuring 20x20µm2. To allow for the dense layout of the electrodes and to be able to read out all electrodes simultaneously, the designers created an innovative time-division multiplexing scheme, which connects 8 electrodes through a single wire with the electronics in the base chip.
Imec’s breakthrough brain probe was fabricated within in the frame of the European FP7 project NeuroSeeker (grant agreement n°600925), a four-year project that was launched in January 2013. The ambitious project was run by an international consortium of leading European and Canadian laboratories with expertise spanning the breath of brain research, from probe technology to theories of information representation. More information on the partners may be found at: https://www.neuroseeker.eu/neuroseeker-partners.
Imec’s ITF Health is an exclusive event for business leaders, biomedical experts and visionaries in healthcare and nanotechnology. The forum is held on Oct 3 in San Diego, Calif., and provides insights into rapidly evolving R&D at the crossroads of healthcare and nanoelectronics, with a specific interest in solving current and future healthcare challenges. ITF Health is part of the series of Imec Technology Forums. Other ITF events are hosted in Belgium, the USA, Japan, Israel and South East Asia. Additional details and speakers can be found at https://www.itf2017.be.