Around 35% of all illnesses are neurological, either brain or peripheral nerve system-based. And as the world’s population ages, conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are becoming more common. The medical world needs new tools to understand, but especially to treat such illnesses. Electrical signals start to gain importance in communicating with the brain and with the whole peripheral nerve system. They can replace the role of chemical treatments and can be used in a more targeted approach.
The value of silicon chip nanofabrication
Silicon chip nanofabrication is a natural choice for interaction with nerves as it allows to realize ultra-small sensing and activating electrodes at unprecedented densities. Examples include in vivo high density neuroprobes to read-out brain signals and electroceutical devices to stimulate nerves. These sensors and actuators can be directly integrated with signal processing capabilities and wireless communications to ensure high-fidelity, high-throughput data transfer.
Moreover, in a fully biocompatible hermetic package, the technology can be applied to long-term implantable devices such as neuromodulation, prosthetic arms, as well as brain computer interface applications. Also, non-invasive solutions such as EEG or acoustic stimulation can be implemented.
Imec's track record in neurotech
By leveraging our IP, world-class infrastructure, design and validation skills and global ecosystem of diverse partners, imec helps you apply silicon chip nanofabrication to the neurotech domain. Our previous developments include:
- Neuropixels: world’s first miniature neural probe for simultaneous recording of multiple brain regions at neuronal resolution (together with Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and Wellcome Trust),
- World’s first thin-Silicon implantable chip for high-precision haptic prosthetics (together with University of Florida, funded by DARPA)
- Implantable, biocompatible microsystems with the ability to integrate photonics and optics on probe
- Wave-based virtual probe platform that can enable photo-acoustic functional imaging
- Optogenetics probes for optical stimulation and electronic detection of individual neurons