I know quite a few friends and acquaintances that have epilepsy. They try to deal with their condition on a daily basis and do fairly well. The good news is that technology is advancing and can allow for seizure detection, recording a seizure diary for doctors to see, seizure forecasting, tracking the brain’s state with active brain probing, as well as automated brain stimulation therapy adjustment which uses a control law approach that can detect a seizure event coming on before it actually happens—this is the ultimate in prevention.
The Mayo Clinic1 did some tests with canines with epilepsy as subjects using an implanted Medtronic Activa RC+S Research System for Deep Brain Stimulation that looks a lot like a pacemaker—that’s no accident because Pacemakers and pain interrupters by Medtronic have a similar outer case as well as a similar, but not necessarily exactly the same, electronic system. These devices are usually implanted subcutaneously (under the skin) with wires running to the brain or to the spinal cord or the heart.
More recently the Janelia Research Campus began an international project with imec, the Wellcome Trust, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Allen Institute for Brain Science to develop a next generation tool for electrophysiology. The result of this collaboration was the Neuropixels probes, which were designed, developed and fabricated by imec in collaboration with HHMI Janelia Research Campus, Allen Institute for Brain Science, and University College of London.
Neuropixels probes are next-generation electrodes that record the activity of hundreds of neurons in the brain (Image courtesy of Neuropixels)
Neuropixels is the first fully-integrated Silicon CMOS digital neuroprobe with performance, cost and reliability that is best-in-class.
Beginning on October 31, 2018, imec made the Neuropixels probes available to the global Neuroscience research community. Information on accessing and using the Neuropixels probes is available on the Neuropixels website.
The Neuropixels probe uses advanced CMOS chip technology with excellent integration capability.
State-of-the-art high-density neural probe, Neuropixels (Image courtesy of Neuropixels)
There is now a race between optical and electric methods of record large-scale cellular activity, but with imec’s Neuropixels reliably recording spikes from hundreds of neurons simultaneously with sub-millisecond resolution in a small, convenient and inexpensive package this gives researchers and doctors the next large leap forward.
Systems neuroscience is now getting access to technical devices which will enable research teams to record from hundreds and thousands of neurons at the same time in behaving animals. Most scientists and doctors believe that the important computations of the brain such as those involved in cognition, emotions, decisions, and actions are carried out by networks of neurons and that we will only begin to understand how the brain works when we can record the activity of substantial parts of these networks.
The Neuropixels probe is a welcome tool that will enable researchers and doctors to probe these neuron circuits with a temporal resolution that has not been possible previously.
Research is underway to develop further versions of the probes: four-shank probes with a smaller base (ideal for chronic recordings), and optrodes that combine recording with optical stimulation (for optogenetic experiments).
1 Live Demonstration: Continuous active probing and modulation of neural networks with a wireless implantable system, Vaclav Kremen, Benjamin H. Brinkmann, Inyong Kim, Su-Youne Chang, Jamie Van Gompel, Jeffrey A. Herron, Steven Baldassano, Edward E. Patterson, Brian Litt, Timothy Denison, Gregory A. Worrell, IEEE 2017
2 ULTRACOMPACT OPTOFLEX NEURAL PROBES FOR HIGHRESOLUTION ELECTROPHYSIOLOGY AND OPTOGENETIC STIMULATION, Maysamreza Chamanzar1, Daniel J. Denman, Timothy J. Blanche, and Michel M. Maharbiz, EECS Department, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, USA; Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, USA
3 Neuropixels at London’s Global University