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Hydrogel-Based Flexible Brain-Machine Interface
The interface is easy to insert into the body when dry, but behaves ‘stealthily’ inside the brain when wet Professor Seongjun Park’s research team and collaborators revealed a newly developed hydrogel-based flexible brain-machine interface. To study the structure of the brain or to identify and treat neurological diseases, it is crucial to develop an interface that can stimulate the brain and detect its signals in real time. However, existing neural interfaces are mechanically and chemically different from real brain tissue. This causes foreign body response and forms an insulating layer (glial scar) around the interface, which shortens its lifespan. To solve this problem, the research team developed a ‘brain-mimicking interface’ by inserting a custom-made multifunctional fiber bundle into the hydrogel body. The device is composed not only of an optical fiber that controls specific nerve cells with light in order to perform optogenetic procedures, but it also has an electrode bundle to read brain signals and a microfluidic channel to deliver drugs to the brain. The interface is easy to insert into the body when dry, as hydrogels become solid. But once in the body, the hydrogel will quickly absorb body fluids and resemble the properties of its surrounding tissues, thereby minimizing foreign body response. The research team applied the device on animal models, and showed that it was possible to detect neural signals for up to six months, which is far beyond what had been previously recorded. It was also possible to conduct long-term optogenetic and behavioral experiments on freely moving mice with a significant reduction in foreign body responses such as glial and immunological activation compared to existing devices. “This research is significant in that it was the first to utilize a hydrogel as part of a multifunctional neural interface probe, which increased its lifespan dramatically,” said Professor Park. “With our discovery, we look forward to advancements in research on neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease that require long-term observation.” The research was published in Nature Communications on June 8, 2021. (Title: Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity) The study was conducted jointly with an MIT research team composed of Professor Polina Anikeeva, Professor Xuanhe Zhao, and Dr. Hyunwoo Yook. This research was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF) grant for emerging research, Korea Medical Device Development Fund, KK-JRC Smart Project, KAIST Global Initiative Program, and Post-AI Project. -PublicationPark, S., Yuk, H., Zhao, R. et al. Adaptive and multifunctional hydrogel hybrid probes for long-term sensing and modulation of neural activity. Nat Commun 12, 3435 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-23802-9 -ProfileProfessor Seongjun ParkBio and Neural Interfaces LaboratoryDepartment of Bio and Brain EngineeringKAIST
Before Eyes Open, They Get Ready to See
- Spontaneous retinal waves can generate long-range horizontal connectivity in visual cortex. - A KAIST research team’s computational simulations demonstrated that the waves of spontaneous neural activity in the retinas of still-closed eyes in mammals develop long-range horizontal connections in the visual cortex during early developmental stages. This new finding featured in the August 19 edition of Journal of Neuroscience as a cover article has resolved a long-standing puzzle for understanding visual neuroscience regarding the early organization of functional architectures in the mammalian visual cortex before eye-opening, especially the long-range horizontal connectivity known as “feature-specific” circuitry. To prepare the animal to see when its eyes open, neural circuits in the brain’s visual system must begin developing earlier. However, the proper development of many brain regions involved in vision generally requires sensory input through the eyes. In the primary visual cortex of the higher mammalian taxa, cortical neurons of similar functional tuning to a visual feature are linked together by long-range horizontal circuits that play a crucial role in visual information processing. Surprisingly, these long-range horizontal connections in the primary visual cortex of higher mammals emerge before the onset of sensory experience, and the mechanism underlying this phenomenon has remained elusive. To investigate this mechanism, a group of researchers led by Professor Se-Bum Paik from the Department of Bio and Brain Engineering at KAIST implemented computational simulations of early visual pathways using data obtained from the retinal circuits in young animals before eye-opening, including cats, monkeys, and mice. From these simulations, the researchers found that spontaneous waves propagating in ON and OFF retinal mosaics can initialize the wiring of long-range horizontal connections by selectively co-activating cortical neurons of similar functional tuning, whereas equivalent random activities cannot induce such organizations. The simulations also showed that emerged long-range horizontal connections can induce the patterned cortical activities, matching the topography of underlying functional maps even in salt-and-pepper type organizations observed in rodents. This result implies that the model developed by Professor Paik and his group can provide a universal principle for the developmental mechanism of long-range horizontal connections in both higher mammals as well as rodents. Professor Paik said, “Our model provides a deeper understanding of how the functional architectures in the visual cortex can originate from the spatial organization of the periphery, without sensory experience during early developmental periods.” He continued, “We believe that our findings will be of great interest to scientists working in a wide range of fields such as neuroscience, vision science, and developmental biology.” This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF). Undergraduate student Jinwoo Kim participated in this research project and presented the findings as the lead author as part of the Undergraduate Research Participation (URP) Program at KAIST. Figures and image credit: Professor Se-Bum Paik, KAIST Image usage restrictions: News organizations may use or redistribute these figures and image, with proper attribution, as part of news coverage of this paper only. Publication: Jinwoo Kim, Min Song, and Se-Bum Paik. (2020). Spontaneous retinal waves generate long-range horizontal connectivity in visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, Available online athttps://www.jneurosci.org/content/early/2020/07/17/JNEUROSCI.0649-20.2020 Profile: Se-Bum Paik Assistant Professor firstname.lastname@example.org http://vs.kaist.ac.kr/ VSNN Laboratory Department of Bio and Brain Engineering Program of Brain and Cognitive Engineering http://kaist.ac.kr Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) Daejeon, Republic of Korea Profile: Jinwoo Kim Undergraduate Student email@example.com Department of Bio and Brain Engineering, KAIST Profile: Min Song Ph.D. Candidate firstname.lastname@example.org Program of Brain and Cognitive Engineering, KAIST (END)
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