Unveiling the Potential of Soft Electrodes: Anticipating Microscopic Brain Invasion

By: | June 19th, 2023

New innovation allows neurosurgeons to perform brain surgeries and treat neurological diseases with minimal invasiveness. This revolutionary approach opens doors to safer and more effective treatments, offering hope to individuals grappling with complex brain conditions.

A team of scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) has developed a soft and flexible petal electrode made of silicon polymer and gold thread. The electrode, made of transparent and thin silicon polymer, can easily fit into the narrow space between the skull and the brain. In experiments conducted on mini-pigs, the EPFL team successfully tested the soft electrodes.

The key advantage of this device is its ability to be inserted into the human brain through a small hole in the skull and then expand internally. This allows neurosurgeons to work on a larger surface area of the brain, encompassing more neurons and tissues.

The electrode deploys using a unique spiral pin design, with a fully spread diameter of 4 cm. However, surgeons do not need to drill a large hole; instead, the folded electrode is packed inside a feeder tube and inserted through a 2 cm hole in the skull. Once inside the skull, the spirals expand under soft pressure, returning the electrode to its original shape. This mechanism offers the advantage of deploying electrodes of various sizes onto the cerebral cortex with continuous, minimal compression.

Soft electrodes have the potential to greatly benefit patients with neurological conditions worldwide. Compared to conventional implants, this new device is less invasive and can be deployed on the cerebral cortex more easily and safely. The flexible structure of the electrode allows it to cover more brain tissue with minimal risk to the skull and brain during deep brain stimulation (DBS).

The EPFL team, led by Professor Stéphanie Lacour, plans to further develop the device into a soft robot and conduct human trials in the near future. This innovative technology presents promising solutions for less invasive and highly effective neurological treatments.


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