Innovation That Matters

A new array of brain sensors can record electrical signals directly from the surface of the human brain in record-breaking detail | Photo source David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

High resolution brain sensors could help surgeons remove tumours and treat epilepsy

Health & Wellbeing

Thin and flexible, the sensors record 100 times more detailed data than is currently available

Spotted: Electrocorticography (ECoG) is the use of sensors on the surface of the brain to track levels and locations of brain activity. Generally used in the form of a flexible grid, the sensors help surgeons identify tumour growth and epicentres of epileptic activity. Current surgical-grade grids use anything between 16 and 64 sensors. Occasionally, research teams custom build a 256-sensor grid.

However, new grids containing 1,024 or 2,048 sensors produce an astonishing level of detail that has never before been seen. Platinum nano-rods placed within a thin, bendable grid made of parylene that flexes exactly as the brain does allows for high precision data capture in near-to-real time. The discovery is the work of a multi-disciplinary team of neurosurgeons, engineers, and medical researchers from the University of California, San Diego; the Oregon Health and Science University; and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The new sensors record data in 100 times more detail than what is currently available. This provides surgeons with unprecedented views of activity in healthy tissues surrounding a tumour, as well as greater insight into where drug-resistant epilepsy is centred within the brain.

With multiple patents currently pending for this work, the team is also setting up a laboratory to establish and monitor current good manufacturing practice in order to achieve United States Food and Drug Administration approval for use of the sensors in larger clinical trials. Further development also includes building wireless versions for longer-term monitoring, and different sizes for tracking larger volumes of brain activity.

A thread-like robot that breaks up blood clots and a back-flipping micro-robot that delivers medication directly to an organ, are two other incredible examples—spotted by Springwise—of biocompatible technology reducing the invasiveness of healthcare.  

Written by: Keely Khoury

Email: llabios@ucsd.edu

Website: ucsd.edu

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