Objective: Individual carbon fiber microelectrodes can record unit activity in both acute and semi-chronic (∼1 month) implants. Additionally, new methods have been developed to insert a 16 channel array of carbon fiber microelectrodes. Before assessing the in vivo long-term viability of these arrays, accelerated soak tests were carried out to determine the most stable site coating material. Next, a multi-animal, multi-month, chronic implantation study was carried out with carbon fiber microelectrode arrays and silicon electrodes.
Approach: Carbon fibers were first functionalized with one of two different formulations of PEDOT and subjected to accelerated aging in a heated water bath. After determining the best PEDOT formula to use, carbon fiber arrays were chronically implanted in rat motor cortex. Some rodents were also implanted with a single silicon electrode, while others received both. At the end of the study a subset of animals were perfused and the brain tissue sliced. Tissue sections were stained for astrocytes, microglia, and neurons. The local reactive responses were assessed using qualitative and quantitative methods.
Main results: Electrophysiology recordings showed the carbon fibers detecting unit activity for at least 3 months with average amplitudes of ∼200 μV. Histology analysis showed the carbon fiber arrays with a minimal to non-existent glial scarring response with no adverse effects on neuronal density. Silicon electrodes showed large glial scarring that impacted neuronal counts.
Significance: This study has validated the use of carbon fiber microelectrode arrays as a chronic neural recording technology. These electrodes have demonstrated the ability to detect single units with high amplitude over 3 months, and show the potential to record for even longer periods. In addition, the minimal reactive response should hold stable indefinitely, as any response by the immune system may reach a steady state after 12 weeks.