From the department of creepy yet clever: researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia have developed a brain implant made partially from silk that that melts into place on the brain’s surface much like shrink wrap. The thin, flexible implant, records brain activity more accurately than thicker implants and may prove to be invaluable in treating patients with epilepsy, spinal injuries, and other neurological disorders
Today’s high-tech brain implants, dubbed micro-electrode arrays, are made up of semi-flexible wire electrodes that are attached to rigid silicon grids. Unlike the silk prototype implant, micro-electrode arrays don’t conform to the brain’s shape.
The UPenn implant features metal electrodes that measure 500 microns thick, or five times the thickness of a human hair. Since the implant molds so well to the brain, it can provide maximum stability when the brain shifts in the skull. At the same time, the silk and polyimide implant’s ability to cover large swaths of the brain allows it to capture the activity of large networks of cells.
So far, UPenn researchers have tested electrode arrays on complex objects, brain models and even in the brains of anesthetized animals. No word on when the implants might go on sale, but researchers are still working on developing implants that can achieve higher resolution recordings.