Neuronal stimulation and recording with high temporal and spatial resolution is indispensable for future neuro-applications, both in research and the clinic. Electrical recording is well on track in the development of devices with high count of small electrodes. However, this is not the case for electrical stimulation. Stimulating electrodes are more than an order of magnitude larger that recording electrodes.
Our main goal is to establish magnetic micro-stimulation as a new paradigm to achieve the same level of miniaturization as electrical recording. Magnetic stimulation has several advantages including i) biological tissue is transparent to magnetic fields, ii) stimulation points (magnetrodes) do not require direct contact with tissue which improves long term reliability, and iii) neuron orientation can be harnessed to achieve specificity.
Despite these advantages, current magnetic stimulation devices are large. Our hypothesis is that microcoils driven by high-frequency signals are a suitable path to miniaturize these devices. Our vison is to use microcoils to build a neural probe that will have an array of recording electrodes and stimulating magnetrodes, both of about 10 µm in size. One of the challenges is that neurons are low-pass filters and do not follow signals with frequencies higher than hundreds of Hz. Therefore, clever paradigms like low-frequency envelopes need to be explored.
During this thesis, you will establish a fundamental understanding on how to design and use microcoils and high-frequency signals to stimulate neurons. We need to find the theoretical signal parameters like frequency range, amplitude, and type of modulation that would allow a sufficiently small coil to efficiently stimulate neurons. We need to understand what coil configurations would maximize and concentrate magnetic field intensity. We need to learn how this magnetic fields interact with neurons and formulate a phenomenological model. In essence, we need to understand what is theoretically feasible.
We are looking for a highly motivated student with a solid understanding of electromagnetic physics and engineering and great interest in radiofrequency antennae and coils design. You will have the opportunity to expand your knowledge of data analysis tools like MATLAB, Python and FEM simulation software. You will have the opportunity to acquire practical laboratory experience by studying the interaction of high‑frequency magnetic fields with neurons.
Type of project: Internship, Thesis
Duration: 6-12 months
Required degree: Master of Science, Master of Engineering Science
Required background: Electrotechnics/Electrical Engineering, Nanoscience & Nanotechnology, Physics
Allowance only for students from a non-Belgian university