This Project aims to provide enabling microelectronic technologies for the integration and miniaturization of a smart implantable neural stimulation system, which serves as experimental vehicle for the development of new procedures in neurophysiology and, ultimately, for the implementation of new neural prosthesis, more focus and safe than those currently available, for the understanding and treatment of different pathologies of the nervous system, with emphasis in brain disorders, such as including Alzheimers disease, epilepsy or Parkinsons disease.
In particular, this Project will explore emerging approaches for treating neural disorders in which regenerative medicine techniques (interneuron transplants expressing regenerative promoters) are combined with optogenetics stimulation. In this application, small implantable neural interface devices in millimeter-scale are needed to deliver light stimuli and interact with the transplant for attenuating disease pathologies. Compared to electrical stimulation, the optogenetic approach allows selectively exciting individual cells with very high spatial and temporal accuracy, leaving the rest of the cells intact and, thus, reducing side effects.
In another aspect, the Project will advance towards the practical implementation of a reliable and efficient closed-loop mechanism which, based on the electrical activity recorded from the genetically encoded cells, is able to provide an efficient and non-harmful actuation by optical means. This real-time feedback procedure will support the adaptability of the system to the plasticity of the neural tissue and, thereby, it will open up doors for the implementation of robust, long lifetime neural prosthesis whose operation self-adjusts to the patient's progress. In order to improve the selectivity and detection accuracy of the closed-loop system, Artificial Intelligence (AI) paradigms will be explored seeking an optimum equilibrium between efficiency and hardware cost.
Also, to favor miniaturization, the Project will investigate the integration of fully wireless solutions in the implant both for data and power transfer. Through analysis, simulation, and measurements on prototypes, different coil structures will be explored for powering mm-sized neural interfaces, paying attention to keep the Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) of electromagnetic (EM) field in the tissue under safe limits.