Imec, a nanotechnology and digital technology research institution in Belgium, has developed the world’s densest neural probe. The ability to build ever more complex and capable brain-computer interfaces and neural implants requires being able to interface with as many neurons as possible. The new neural probe is so densely packed with electrodes that individual neurons can be read and stimulated using the new device.
“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,” said Marleen Welkenhuysen, a project manager at Imec. “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.”
The silicon chip probe has a biocompatible needle that’s only 50µm thick and 8 millimeters in length. The needle has hundreds of electrodes protruding from its length, each only having only a 20×20µm2 area. Because you can’t run individual wires to all the electrodes, a multiplexing system instead breaks them down into groups of eight, significantly reducing the number of required connections.