Ultrasensitive nanoscale optical probes have been created by scientists from UC Santa Cruz, to observe the bioelectric activity of neurons and other excitable cells.

This innovative readout technology could allow researchers to analyze how neural circuits operate at a scale like never before, by observing large numbers of individual neurons at the same time. It could also pave the way for high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces with drastically increased functionality and precision.

Traditionally, the electrical activity of neurons is monitored with the help of microelectrode arrays. However, these components are challenging to implement at a large scale and provide limited spatial resolution.

According to Ali Yanik, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UCSC’s Baskin School of Engineering, the electronic wiring needed for readout is a key limitation of microelectrodes.

Image Credit:  C. Lagattuta

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