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IMEC partners with FP6 on neural probe tech

Posted: 24 Nov 2010     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:brain research  electronic depth control  NeuroProbes 

IMEC has partnered with the European FP6 Programme NeuroProbes to create a neural probe technology enabling electrical and chemical recording as well as stimulation of single neurons in the brain.

Possible applications of this technology are vast, ranging from tools for fundamental research on the functioning of the brain, to instruments for more precise diagnosis of brain seizures prior to or in preparation for brain-surgery.

To distinguish single neurons in the brain, the recording electrode must be placed very close to the neuron, ideally within 100�m or less. Until recently, multi-electrode recording probes have relied on trial and error, as it is not possible to mechanically optimise the position of electrodes independently from each other. Fortunately, the new Electronic Depth Control (EDC) technology, introduced by IMEC and its NeuroProbes partners, permits individual adjustment of the position of the different electrodes without requiring any mechanical displacement. The EDC neural probe has hundreds of electronically switchable electrodes; it enables scanning for the most informative neural signals, locking onto them, and eventually adjusting their position during the course of an experiment.

The EDC neural probe technology brings opportunities for new research tracks. Aside from fundamental brain research, one of the key roles of the EDC technology is pre-operative diagnostics prior to brain surgery for a variety of conditions.

�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,� Neves further explains.

This research work was part of the NeuroProbes project (coordinated by IMEC), partly funded by the European Commission under Framework Programme 6. EDC technology is the result of a close collaboration with the Microsystem Materials Laboratory of the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) at University of Freiburg (Germany).

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