Ultra-thin and flexible brain implant developed by University of Pennsylvania researchers could one day be used to treat epileptic seizures.
In animal studies, the researchers used the device - a type of electrode array that conforms to the brain's surface - to take an unprecedented look at the brain activity underlying seizures.
"Someday, these flexible arrays could be used to pinpoint where seizures start in the brain and perhaps to shut them down," said Brian Litt, M.D., the principal investigator and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
In an animal model, the researchers saw spiral waves of brain activity not previously observed during a seizure. Similar waves are known to ripple through cardiac muscle during a type of life threatening heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.
"If our findings are borne out in human studies, they open up the possibility of treating seizures with therapies like those used for cardiac arrhythmias," said Dr. Litt.
He said a stimulating electrode array might one day be designed to suppress seizure activity, working like a pacemaker for the brain.
The array developed by the study's lead author Jonathan Viventi, Ph.D an assistant professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and New York University, and his colleagues is made of a pliable material that is only about one quarter the thickness of a human hair.
It contains 360 electrodes and built-in silicon transistors, which allow for minimal wiring and dense packing of the electrodes.
"This technology allows us to see patterns of activity before and during a seizure at a very fine scale, with broad coverage of the brain," said Viventi.
The findings appear in this month's Nature Neuroscience.