A Materials Roadmap to Functional Neural Interface Design

Adv Funct Mater. 2018 Mar 21;28(12):1701269. doi: 10.1002/adfm.201701269. Epub 2017 Jul 19.


Advancement in neurotechnologies for electrophysiology, neurochemical sensing, neuromodulation, and optogenetics are revolutionizing scientific understanding of the brain while enabling treatments, cures, and preventative measures for a variety of neurological disorders. The grand challenge in neural interface engineering is to seamlessly integrate the interface between neurobiology and engineered technology, to record from and modulate neurons over chronic timescales. However, the biological inflammatory response to implants, neural degeneration, and long-term material stability diminish the quality of interface overtime. Recent advances in functional materials have been aimed at engineering solutions for chronic neural interfaces. Yet, the development and deployment of neural interfaces designed from novel materials have introduced new challenges that have largely avoided being addressed. Many engineering efforts that solely focus on optimizing individual probe design parameters, such as softness or flexibility, downplay critical multi-dimensional interactions between different physical properties of the device that contribute to overall performance and biocompatibility. Moreover, the use of these new materials present substantial new difficulties that must be addressed before regulatory approval for use in human patients will be achievable. In this review, the interdependence of different electrode components are highlighted to demonstrate the current materials-based challenges facing the field of neural interface engineering.

Keywords: Bioelectronics; Electrodes; Microelectromechanical Systems; Photonics; Sensors/Biosensors.