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Ultrathin Silk-Based Electronics Make Better Brain Implants

By Wired

April 21, 2010

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University of Pennsylvania engineers have designed silk-based electronics that can stick to the surface of the brain, allowing for better brain-computer interfaces. The researchers say the silk-based devices are thin and flexible enough to reach previously inaccessible areas of the brain. "This development heralds a new class of implantable devices, not just for the brain, but for many other tissues," says Penn neurologist Brian Litt.

The researchers printed electrode arrays onto silk films that dissolve after they are placed on the brain's surface and flushed with saline. After the silk film disintegrates, the array wraps itself around the brain.

"This will significantly improve recording by conforming the electrode array to the surface of the brain," says Columbia University biomedical engineer Barclay Morrison. When the device was tested on the visual-processing area of a cat's brain, it recorded neural activity for about a month without causing inflammation. The new system, consisting of stable, finely spaced electrodes, could lead to the development of better neural prosthetics, Morrison says.

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