Health and Medicine Neuroscience Technology

A New Generation Of Brain Monitoring Has Arrived

Brain Monitoring

A research team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania is discussing a new brain monitoring device that is implanted within the brain and naturally melts away over time, avoiding the need of surgical removal. This new device greatly reduces damage to surrounding tissue that occurs during the use of standard implanted electrodes. 

Senior co-author Brian Litt, MD is a professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery as well as Bioenginnering. Litt says these dissolvable silicon electronics create opportunities that are unparalleled to anything done in the past in regard to monitoring systems. These new post surgery devices eliminate the amount of risk and discomfort associated by patients during the surgical removal process. Co-leader John A. Rogers, PhD says their study tested the usefulness of such temporarily implanted devices. The devices are able to continually send data regarding the brain health of patients for a period of time that is determined by health care providers prior to implantation. This can range anywhere from a couple of days to months.

The new device consists of multiple silicon layers and molybdenum that is able to track the body’s physiological characteristics. The thinner the device itself, the longer it will remain present in the body. To study the efficiency of the device, the team recorded the brain waves of mice while under anesthesia and the voltage changes among their neurons, all while causing epileptic spikes to their tissue. Electrophysiological signals were tracked for 30 days by devices located on the surface of the brain cortex and the area between the skull and scalp.

brain monitor
Slim, flexible neural electrode arrays with fully bioresorbable structure are based on patterned silicon nanomembranes (Si NMs) as the conducting component.
(Image Credit: The lab of Brian Litt, MD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania)

The measurements tracked by the device are the same that are commonly used in the diagnosis of disorders including Parkinson’s disease, depression and epilepsy. Litt says these types of measurements are an important aspect when it comes to being able to both map and monitor the brain’s functioning both before and during neurosurgery and in guiding various surgical procedures. The device also offers important information provided post-op. Currently, monitoring done after an operation is done through clinical exams and interventional radiology which is extremely invasive, expensive and difficult in cases where monitoring is required over a span of many months. Having a device within the patient that offers access to 24/7 health tracking would save both a lot of time and a lot of money.

Litt hopes this new technology can be used to help better understand post-operation seizures and brain recovery following a surgical procedure. There is potential for these devices to also be used during things such as aneurysm coiling, embolization and even stent placement, offering a new tool for both brain and heart surgeons.

Currently the team is working on developing more advanced devices that may be able to focus on other measurement capabilities such as flow and pressure, as well as electrical recording. They plan to test on animal diseases and then move into human testing.

Their new study has been published in the online journal Nature Materials.