Imec, together with its
partners within the European FP6 Program NeuroProbes, has created a new neural
probe enabling electrical and chemical recording and stimulation of single neurons
in the brain. Applications of the new technology are vast, ranging from tools
for fundamental research on the functioning of the brain, to instruments for
more precise diagnosis of brain seizures before brain-surgery.
To discriminate single neurons in the brain, the recording electrode should
be positioned very close to the neuron, ideally within 100 micrometers or less.
To date, multi-electrode recording probes have relied on trial and error, as
it is not possible to mechanically optimize the position of electrodes independently
from each other. The new Electronic Depth Control (EDC) technology, introduced
by imec and its NeuroProbes partners, enables individual adjustment of the position
of the different electrodes without requiring any mechanical displacement. The
EDC neural probe has hundreds of electronically switchable electrodes, allowing
to scan for the most informative neural signals, to lock onto them, and eventually
adjust their position during the course of an experiment.
The new EDC neural probe technology opens the door to dozens of new research
tracks, and even promises to refine work currently underway. Next to fundamental
brain research, one of the key roles of the EDC technology is pre-operative
diagnostics prior to brain surgery for a variety of conditions. “It is
known that similar probes have been used for decades to discover the focus of
an epileptic seizure, for example,” explains Herc Neves, scientist at
Belgium’s imec and coordinator of the NeuroProbes project. “You
have a patient that is about to be operated on, and you want to remove as little
tissue as possible. By pinpointing where the seizure is generated, you remove
only that tissue, resulting in safer and less invasive surgery.”
This work was part of the NeuroProbes project (coordinated by imec), partly
funded by the European Commission under Framework Program 6. EDC probes have
been validated and used successfully in scientific experiments by neuroscientists
at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the University of Parma (Italy). EDC
technology is the result of a close collaboration with the Microsystem Materials
Laboratory of the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) at University
of Freiburg (Germany).
Imec performs world-leading research in nanoelectronics. Imec leverages its
scientific knowledge with the innovative power of its global partnerships in
ICT, healthcare and energy. Imec delivers industry-relevant technology solutions.
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to providing the building blocks for a better life in a sustainable society.
Imec is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has offices in Belgium, the Netherlands,
Taiwan, US, China and Japan. Its staff of more than 1,750 people includes over
550 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2009, imec's revenue (P&L)
was 275 million euro.