Unique electrophysiological and impedance signatures between encapsulation types: An analysis of biological Utah array failure and benefit of a biomimetic coating in a rat model

Biomaterials. 2018 Apr;161:117-128. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2018.01.025. Epub 2018 Feb 1.


Intracortical microelectrode arrays, especially the Utah array, remain the most common choice for obtaining high dimensional recordings of spiking neural activity for brain computer interface and basic neuroscience research. Despite the widespread use and established design, mechanical, material and biological challenges persist that contribute to a steady decline in recording performance (as evidenced by both diminished signal amplitude and recorded cell population over time) or outright array failure. Device implantation injury causes acute cell death and activation of inflammatory microglia and astrocytes that leads to a chronic neurodegeneration and inflammatory glial aggregation around the electrode shanks and often times fibrous tissue growth above the pia along the bed of the array within the meninges. This multifaceted deleterious cascade can result in substantial variability in performance even under the same experimental conditions. We track both impedance signatures and electrophysiological performance of 4 × 4 floating microelectrode Utah arrays implanted in the primary monocular visual cortex (V1m) of Long-Evans rats over a 12-week period. We employ a repeatable visual stimulation method to compare signal-to-noise ratio as well as single- and multi-unit yield from weekly recordings. To explain signal variability with biological response, we compare arrays categorized as either Type 1, partial fibrous encapsulation, or Type 2, complete fibrous encapsulation and demonstrate performance and impedance signatures unique to encapsulation type. We additionally assess benefits of a biomolecule coating intended to minimize distance to recordable units and observe a temporary improvement on multi-unit recording yield and single-unit amplitude.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomimetics / methods*
  • Electric Impedance*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Microelectrodes
  • Rats