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Scientists Attempt Ultra-Safe Brain Tests with Ultra-Thin Electrodes

Jan 12, 2017 07:52 AM EST
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What if you could record brain activity without ever damaging the brain -- from the inside? Scientists are planning to make electrodes that are so thin, they could make brain treatments incredibly safer.

According to New Scientist, it can be remembered that wires are implanted in the brain to treat epilepsy and Parkinson's disease. They do this by stimulating malfunctioning nerve cells and even record electrical signals in the brain. 

However, these electrodes tend to be wide. They are 1.5 millimeters in diameter, and it can even kill brain cells and hit blood vessels. Their stiff nature can cause inflammation and gradually get covered with immune cells that reduce efficiency.

However, New Scientist says that a new alternative is here. Softer electrodes such as those made by carbon nanotubes, which is a thousandth of the diameter of regular wires, may work. However, how do you insert something that soft to the brain?

According to Jacob Robinson from Rice University in Texas, it's like trying to stick a wet noodle into a bowl of Jello. Regardless, it seems the possibility that Robinson and his team was planning is becoming a reality.

However, Robinson's team have found a way to make the tubes behave more like a stiff knitting needle. New Scientist reveals that they have built a device that can allow a tiny channel of flowing water to stiffen the wire. As it is pushed into the brain, the tissue stops it from crumpling.

This device was previously used to insert electrodes that record brain activity in mice, without even causing any damage. 

This is an amazing medical breakthrough, as a lot of people and patients seem constrained with what can be offered by electrodes so far. Given the breadth of developments in the field of neuroscience, such developments are amazing and unprecedented.  

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