Objective: The success of a cortical prosthetic device relies upon its ability to attain resolvable spikes from many neurons in particular neural networks over long periods of time. Traditionally, lifetimes of neural recordings are greatly limited by the body's immune response against the foreign implant which causes neuronal death and glial scarring. This immune reaction is posited to be exacerbated by micromotion between the implant, which is often rigid, and the surrounding, soft brain tissue, and attenuates the quality of recordings over time.
Approach: In an attempt to minimize the foreign body response to a penetrating neural array that records from multiple brain regions, Parylene C, a flexible, biocompatible polymer was used as the substrate material for a functional, proof-of-concept neural array with a reduced elastic modulus. This probe array was designed and fabricated to have 64 electrodes positioned to match the anatomy of the rat hippocampus and allow for simultaneous recordings between two cell-body layers of interest. A dissolvable brace was used for deep-brain penetration of the flexible array.
Main results: Arrays were electrochemically characterized at the benchtop, and a novel insertion technique that restricts acute insertion injury enabled accurate target placement of four, bare, flexible arrays to greater than 4 mm deep into the rat brain. Arrays were tested acutely and in vivo recordings taken intra-operatively reveal spikes in both targeted regions of the hippocampus with spike amplitudes and noise levels similar to those recorded with microwires. Histological staining of a sham array implanted for one month reveals limited astrocytic scarring and neuronal death around the implant.
Significance: This work represents one of the first examples of a penetrating polymer probe array that records from individual neurons in structures that lie deep within the brain.