By measuring the activity of a large number of individual neurons simultaneously, a new ultrasensitive optical nanoprobe that can monitor the bioelectric activity of neurons (and other cells that generate electrical impulses) could help researchers better understand how neural circuits function at previously unexplored scales. In the future, the device could aid in developing high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces. Like to adapt their electro-plasmonic nanoelectrodes for brain implants using fiber-optics technology
For over 50 years, scientists have wanted to use light’s unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution to detect electrophysiological signals from electrogenic cells (neurons and heart cells). However, due to a lack of electro-optical translators capable of efficiently converting electrical activity into high photon-count optical signals, this goal has remained elusive.
For the first time, the researchers created a novel electro-plasmonic nanoantenna that allows for extracellular (non-invasive), high signal-to-noise ratio, and real-time optical recording of electrophysiological signals.
In addition to being implanted, the nanoprobes could be created as nanoparticles suspended in a colloidal solution with surface proteins attached to bind to specific cell types. These devices could be injected into the body’s bloodstream or an organ.
Recent studies have shown that smaller implant sizes significantly reduce inherent immune response. In this regard, the new nanoscale electro-plasmonic nanoprobes are especially advantageous for long-term operation.