The body of knowledge about the human brain is growing exponentially, but questions big and small remain unanswered. Researchers have been using electrode arrays to record the brain’s electrical activity for decades, mapping activity in different brain regions to understand what it looks like when everything is working, and what is happening when it is not.
Until now, however, these arrays have only been able to detect activity over a certain frequency threshold. A new technology developed in Barcelona overcomes this technical limitation, unlocking the wealth of information found below 0.1 Hz, while at the same time paving the way for future brain-computer interfaces.
Developed at the Barcelona Microelectronics Institute (IMB-CNM, CSIC) and the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2, a center of BIST and CSIC), and the CIBER in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN), and adapted for brain recordings in collaboration with the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), the technology moves away from electrodes and uses an innovative transistor-based architecture that amplifies the brain’s signals in situ before transmitting them to a receiver.
Furthermore, the use of graphene to build this new architecture means the resulting implant can support many more recording sites than a standard electrode array, plus is slim and flexible enough to be used over large areas of the cortex without being rejected or interfering with normal brain function.
The result is an unprecedented mapping of the kind of low frequency brain activity known to carry crucial information about different events in the brain such as the onset and progression of epileptic seizures and strokes.
For neurologists this means they finally have access to the brain’s whispered clues.

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