Plasmonic Nanoprobe Optically Monitors Neural Activity

A new ultrasensitive nanoscale optical probe 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 hitherto unexplored scales by measuring the activity of huge numbers of individual neurons at the same time. The device could also help in the development of high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces in the future.


“Scientists have wanted to harness the unprecedented spatiotemporal resolution capability of light to detect electrophysiological signals from electrogenic cells (neurons and heart cells) for over 50 years,” says Ali Yanik of the University of California Santa Cruz, who led this new research effort. “This goal has remained elusive, however, for lack of electro-optical translators than can efficiently convert electrical activity into high photon-count optical signals.

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