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Researchers at Lund University have developed implantable multichannel electrodes that can capture signals from single neurons in the brain over a long period of time — without causing brain tissue damage, making it possible to better understand brain function in both healthy and diseased individuals.

Current flexible electrodes can’t maintain their shape when implanted, which is why they have to be attached to a solid chip. That limits their flexibility and irritates brain tissue, eventually killing surrounding nerve cells and making signals unreliable, says professor Jens Schouenborg.

He explains that recording neuronal signals from the brain requires an electrode that is bio-friendly (doesn’t cause any significant damage to brain tissue) and that is flexible in relation to the brain tissue (the brain floats in fluid inside the skull and moves around whenever a person breathes or turns their head).

“The electrode and the implantation technology that we have now developed have these properties,” he says. Described in an open-access paper in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the new “3-D electrodes” are unique in that they are extremely soft (they even deflect against a water surface) and flexible in all three dimensions, enabling stable recordings from neurons over a long period of time.

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