Microfluidic Actuation of Carbon Nanotube Fibers for Neural Recordings
Vercosa, Daniel G
Master of Science
Implantable devices to record and stimulate neural circuits have led to breakthroughs in neuroscience; however, technologies capable of electrical recording at the cellular level typically rely on rigid metals that poorly match the mechanical properties of soft brain tissue. As a result these electrodes often cause extensive acute and chronic injury, leading to short electrode lifetime. Recently, flexible electrodes such as Carbon Nanotube fibers (CNTf) have emerged as an attractive alternative to conventional electrodes and studies have shown that these flexible electrodes reduce neuro-inflammation and increase the quality and longevity of neural recordings. Insertion of these new compliant electrodes, however, remains challenge. The stiffening agents necessary to make the electrodes rigid enough to be inserted increases device footprint, which exacerbates brain damage during implantation. To overcome this challenge we have developed a novel technology to precisely implant and actuate high-performance, flexible carbon nanotube fiber (CNTf) microelectrodes without using a stiffening agents or shuttles. Instead, our technology uses drag forces within a microfluidic device to drive electrodes into tissue while minimizing the amount of fluid that is ejected into the tissue. In vitro experiments in brain phantoms, show that microfluidic actuated CNTf can be implanted at least 4.5 mm depth with 30 μm precision, while keeping the total volume of fluid ejected below 0.1 μL. As proof of concept, we inserted CNTfs in the small cnidarian Hydra littoralis and observed compound action potentials corresponding to contractions and in agreement with the literature. Additionally, brain slices extracted from transgenic mice were used to show that our device can be used to record spontaneous and light evoked activity from the cortex and deep brain regions such as the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN). Overall our microfluidic actuation technology provides a platform for implanting and actuating flexible electrodes that significantly reduces damage during insertion.