Materials for flexible bioelectronic systems as chronic neural interfaces

Abstract

Engineered systems that can serve as chronically stable, high-performance electronic recording and stimulation interfaces to the brain and other parts of the nervous system, with cellular-level resolution across macroscopic areas, are of broad interest to the neuroscience and biomedical communities. Challenges remain in the development of biocompatible materials and the design of flexible implants for these purposes, where ulimate goals are for performance attributes approaching those of conventional wafer-based technologies and for operational timescales reaching the human lifespan. This Review summarizes recent advances in this field, with emphasis on active and passive constituent materials, design architectures and integration methods that support necessary levels of biocompatibility, electronic functionality, long-term stable operation in biofluids and reliability for use in vivo. Bioelectronic systems that enable multiplexed electrophysiological mapping across large areas at high spatiotemporal resolution are surveyed, with a particular focus on those with proven chronic stability in live animal models and scalability to thousands of channels over human-brain-scale dimensions. Research in materials science will continue to underpin progress in this field of study.

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Fig. 1: Emerging classes of implantable bioelectronic platforms as neural interfaces.
Fig. 2: Active semiconductor-enabled systems and biofluid barrier materials for device longevity.
Fig. 3: Materials and engineering approaches for chronically stable, active electronic neural interfaces.
Fig. 4: High-resolution/scalable neural electronic systems for long-term bio-integration.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support from the Querrey Simpson Institute for Bioelectronics at Northwestern University.

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Song, E., Li, J., Won, S.M. et al. Materials for flexible bioelectronic systems as chronic neural interfaces. Nat. Mater. 19, 590–603 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-020-0679-7

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