The University of Texas at Dallas Richardson United States
Intracortical probes can be used to record brain signals to control paralyzed or robotic prosthetic limbs. Unfortunately, this technology is not reliable, likely for the reason that these devices are made of extremely stiff materials 1 million times stiffer than the surrounding brain tissue. This difference in stiffness is believed to create inflammation which degrades the brain tissue and leads to device failure. While it has been previously proposed that flexible intracortical probes would exhibit an improved tissue response and enhanced device performance, there have been no definitive studies that definitively test this hypothesis. We are developing intracortical probes using shape memory polymers SMPs materials which have the capacity to transition from stiff to soft upon implantation. We will tune the degree of stiffness such that we can definitively address a fundamental question which limits progress in the field Does probe softening improve the surrounding tissue response and recording performance of the device The short term impact will be on the scientific community through publications and presentations. Over the long term, the core technology has exceptional promise for translation into the clinic. SMP based probes are compatible with reliable manufacturing practices.