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Electronic Grid Records Brain Activity during Surgery to Minimize Damage to Healthy Tissue

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Jun 2024
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Image: The PtNGrid features thin, flexible and densely packed grids of either 1,024 or 2,048 embedded ECoG sensors (Photo courtesy of David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)
Image: The PtNGrid features thin, flexible and densely packed grids of either 1,024 or 2,048 embedded ECoG sensors (Photo courtesy of David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

A new electronic grid equipped with nanoscale sensors that records electrical signals from the human brain with unprecedented detail could enhance surgical planning and execution for removing brain tumors and treating drug-resistant epilepsy. The grid's enhanced resolution could help neurosurgeons minimize damage to healthy brain tissue and more precisely identify the brain regions responsible for epileptic seizures, ensuring safer and more effective treatments.

The new brain sensor array, known as platinum nanorod grid (PtNRGrid), has been developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego (La Jolla, CA, USA;). The PtNRGrid features a densely packed array of 1,024 electrocorticography (ECoG) sensors, offering a significant advance over the commonly used ECoG grids that typically contain only 16 to 64 sensors and are much thicker and less flexible. This new device is just 6 microns thin—less than one-tenth the thickness of a human hair—and is both flexible and conformable, allowing it to adhere closely to the brain's surface and bend with its movement. This capability enables it to provide high-quality, high-resolution recordings of brain activity.

Since 2019, the research team has been at the forefront of mapping human brain and spinal cord activity using thousands of channels and has documented early safety and efficacy results in human subjects. The PtNRGrid is unique in its ability to map motor and language activities, as well as epileptic discharges, producing detailed videos of brain waves across more than 10 square centimeters of the brain's cortex while maintaining microscopic-level resolution. Currently holding the world record for the most detailed brain activity recording from a single cortical grid, the team has logged data using 2,048 channels and has since increased this capacity to 4,096 channels. The research team continues to enhance the resolution of brain activity monitoring by increasing the number of channels in the grid.

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a clinical trial for PtNRGrid and granted it an investigational device exemption (IDE) for a pivotal study. Engineers will collaborate with clinician-scientists to validate the device's effectiveness in mapping both normal and pathological brain activities. In the trial's first phase, surgeons will implant the PtNRGrid in 20 patients to evaluate and compare its performance against current state-of-the-art technology. The device will be used in surgeries for removing brain tumors and epileptic tissue. Successful outcomes from this trial could lead to commercial scaling of the PtNRGrid. This advancement in ECoG technology not only promises to refine surgical interventions but also opens new avenues in neuroscience, potentially deepening our understanding of brain functionality. Insights gained could drive the development of more effective treatments, leveraging a better understanding of brain processes.

“This accomplishment ushers in a new era of clinical neuroscience and neuromonitoring,” said Shadi Dayeh, a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC San Diego who invented the grid. “We are very excited to receive the FDA approval to apply our groundbreaking PtNRGrid in a clinical setting.”

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