A DARPA-funded research team has created a novel neural-recording device that can be implanted into the brain through blood vessels, reducing the need for invasive surgery and the risks associated with breaching the blood-brain barrier. The technology was developed under DARPA’s Reliable Neural-Interface Technology (RE-NET) program, and offers new potential for safely expanding the use of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to treat physical disabilities and neurological disorders.
In an article published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers in the Vascular Bionics Laboratory at the University of Melbourne led by neurologist Thomas Oxley, M.D., describe proof-of-concept results from a study conducted in sheep that demonstrate high-fidelity measurements taken from the motor cortex—the region of the brain responsible for controlling voluntary movement—using a novel device the size of a small paperclip.
Ref: Minimally invasive endovascular stent-electrode array for high-fidelity, chronic recordings of cortical neural activity. Nature Biotechnology (8 February 2016) | DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3428
High-fidelity intracranial electrode arrays for recording and stimulating brain activity have facilitated major advances in the treatment of neurological conditions over the past decade. Traditional arrays require direct implantation into the brain via open craniotomy, which can lead to inflammatory tissue responses, necessitating development of minimally invasive approaches that avoid brain trauma. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of chronically recording brain activity from within a vein using a passive stent-electrode recording array (stentrode). We achieved implantation into a superficial cortical vein overlying the motor cortex via catheter angiography and demonstrate neural recordings in freely moving sheep for up to 190 d. Spectral content and bandwidth of vascular electrocorticography were comparable to those of recordings from epidural surface arrays. Venous internal lumen patency was maintained for the duration of implantation. Stentrodes may have wide ranging applications as a neural interface for treatment of a range of neurological conditions.