Caltech engineers developing MEMS robots to position electrodes in the brain
Spectrum reports that Caltech researchers are developing a MEMS robotic device to insert and position electrodes in the brain. The system could enhance the performance of neural prosthetics, which have proved hard to implant accurately. The researchers haven't built the device yet, but they've devised control algorithms to guide the miniature robots to make good neural connections. From the article:
The Caltech team has designed a system that would make the procedure more predictable by attaching a tiny MEMS-based motor to each electrode on a multichannel electrode array and using an algorithm to direct the electrodes to individual neurons.
As the electrodes are driven into the tissue, the software starts taking sample recordings to detect spikes of electrical activity at the electrode tip. When the software detects spikes, it moves forward in small increments and tracks how the signals change. After determining whether the signal has improved or gotten worse, the algorithm moves the electrode to a new position and does more recording and comparing, driving the electrode in further if necessary until it finds the best signal. If the signal wanes, the algorithm will automatically adjust the electrode position to improve the signal.