News Column

Patent Issued for Microfabricated Neural Probes and Methods of Making Same

June 24, 2014

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Life Science Weekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by NewsRx journalists, a patent by the inventors Tang, Hongxing (New Haven, CT); Roukes, Michael L. (Pasadena, CA); Renaud, Richard (Pasadena, CA), filed on June 1, 2005, was published online on June 10, 2014 (see also California Institute of Technology).

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8750957, is California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The invention is related to micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and methods of making these systems.

"In neurobiology, to study the central nervous system, electro physiologists use electrodes (referred to herein as recording electrodes) placed in the extra-cellular medium to record the activity of multiples neurons simultaneously. The variation of the local electrical potential is detected or recorded due to the action potentials (spikes) occurring in the surrounding neurons. By using more than one electrode, it is then possible to distinguish action potentials coming from different neurons due to the variation of the shape of the spike while traveling in the extracellular media. This way, each neuron firing will have a distinctive signature of spikes on the multiples electrodes as illustrated in FIG. 1.

"The problem of associating a specific spike's signature on the electrodes to a specific neuron is called spike sorting. While simple tetrodes made of wires twisted together have been and are still in use, micro-machined electrode arrays are now becoming more and more common. Their main advantages are the consistency from one probe to the other compared to manually fabricated probes and the control over the dimensions and spacing of multi electrodes.

"The micromachined neural probes have limited spatial resolution. The distance between recording pads are larger than 20 microns, which is generally larger than the size of neurons. The present inventors realized that these probes cannot be effectively utilized to probe neighboring neurons. Furthermore, the present inventors realized that these probes are more expensive than desired because they are made using expensive silicon processing steps, such as reactive ion etching (RIE) and plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD)."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, NewsRx editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "An embodiment of the invention provides a neural probe containing a plurality of nanoscale recording electrodes. The recording electrodes have a width of 1 micron or less and a distance between adjacent recording electrodes is 10 microns or less. Another embodiment of the invention provides a neural probe comprising a plurality of microfabricated recording electrodes located on a polymer base material, such as a flexible polymer cantilever."

For more information, see this patent: Tang, Hongxing; Roukes, Michael L.; Renaud, Richard. Microfabricated Neural Probes and Methods of Making Same. U.S. Patent Number 8750957, filed June 1, 2005, and published online on June 10, 2014. Patent URL:

Keywords for this news article include: Cells, Neurons, California Institute of Technology.

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Source: Life Science Weekly

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