How the future of brain wave research may be etched in silicon

In the 1950s, engineers faced a challenge. The parts they were using to wire computers – namely transistors – were too bulky for their plans to build more powerful machines. In response, they did something remarkable: they showed that it was possible to greatly shrink a computer’s main circuitry by etching, or chemically burning, the transistors onto tiny chips of silicon. Since then manufacturers have used the same basic process to cram many more circuits onto tinier chips that, ultimately, have powered today’s smartphones, PCs, and the internet.

In a recent article published in Science Translational Medicine, a team of NIH BRAIN Initiative®-funded researchers showed how this chip manufacturing process may also help neuroscientists overcome similar challenges they face today in recording brain wave activity.

Led by Jonathan Viventi, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Duke University, John A. Rogers, S.M., Ph.D., director of the Center on Bio-Integrated Electronics at Northwestern University, and Bijan Pesaran, Ph.D., professor of Neural Science at New York University, the team described how they made the Neural Matrix, a thinner-than-hair, flexible electrocorticography device that has the potential to record brain activity with higher fidelity and for longer periods  than existing devices.

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