Nav: Home

Graphene can hear your brain whisper

January 24, 2019

The body of knowledge about the human brain is keeps growing, but many questions remain unanswered. Researchers have been using electrode arrays to record the brain's electrical activity for decades, mapping activity in different brain regions to understand what it looks like when everything is working, and what is happening when it is not. Until now, however, these arrays have only been able to detect activity over a certain frequency threshold. A new technology developed by the Graphene Flagship overcomes this technical limitation, unlocking the wealth of information found below 0.1 Hz, while paving the way for future brain-computer interfaces.

The new device was developed thanks to a collaboration between three Graphene Flagship Partners (IMB-CNM, ICN2 and ICFO) and adapted for brain recordings together with biomedical experts at IDIBAPS. This new technology moves away from electrodes and uses an innovative transistor-based architecture that amplifies the brain's signals in situ before transmitting them to a receiver. The use of graphene to build this new architecture means the resulting implant can support many more recording sites than a standard electrode array. It is slim and flexible enough to be used over large areas of the cortex without being rejected or interfering with normal brain function. The result is an unprecedented mapping of the low frequency brain activity known to carry crucial information about different events, such as the onset and progression of epileptic seizures and strokes.

For neurologists this means they finally have access to some clues that our brains only whisper. This ground-breaking technology could change the way we record and view electrical activity from the brain. Future applications will give unprecedented insights into where and how seizures begin and end, enabling new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy.

"Beyond epilepsy, this precise mapping and interaction with the brain has other exciting applications," explains José Antonio Garrido, one of the leaders of the study working at Graphene Flagship Partner ICN2. "In contrast to the common standard passive electrodes, our active graphene-based transistor technology will boost the implementation of novel multiplexing strategies that can increase dramatically the number of recording sites in the brain, leading the development of a new generation of brain-computer interfaces." Taking advantage of 'multiplexing', this graphene-enabled technology can also be adapted by some of the same researchers to restore speech and communication. ICN2 has secured this technology through a patent that protects the use of graphene-based transistors to measure low-frequency neural signals.

"This work is a prime example of how a flexible, graphene-based transistor array technology can offer capabilities beyond what is achievable today, and open up tremendous possibilities for reading at unexplored frequencies of neurological activity" noted by Kostas Kostarelos, leader of the Health, Medicine and Sensors Division of the Graphene Flagship.

Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship, and Chair of its Management Panel added that "graphene and related materials have major opportunities for biomedical applications. The Graphene Flagship recognized this by funding a dedicated Work Package. The results of this study are a clear demonstration that graphene can bring unprecedented progress to the study of Brain processes."

This new technology will be one of the Graphene Pavilion's main attractions at the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (25-28 February 2019). The exhibition will showcase the latest innovations on graphene and related materials made possible by the Graphene Flagship, one of the biggest research initiatives ever funded by the European Commission. Beyond applications in health and medical devices, the pavilion will be populated with new prototypes of graphene-enabled technologies for mobile and data communications, wearables, and the internet of things.
-end-


Graphene Flagship

Related Graphene Articles:

Graphene is 3D as well as 2D
Graphene is actually a 3D material as well as a 2D material, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London.
Conductivity at the edges of graphene bilayers
For nanoribbons of bilayer graphene, whose edge atoms are arranged in zigzag patterns, the bands of electron energies which are allowed and forbidden are significantly different to those found in monolayer graphene.
How to purify water with graphene
Scientists from the National University of Science and Technology 'MISIS' together with their colleagues from Derzhavin Tambov State University and Saratov Chernyshevsky State University have figured out that graphene is capable of purifying water, making it drinkable, without further chlorination.
Decoupled graphene thanks to potassium bromide
The use of potassium bromide in the production of graphene on a copper surface can lead to better results.
1 + 1 does not equal 2 for graphene-like 2D materials
Physicists from the University of Sheffield have discovered that when two atomically thin graphene-like materials are placed on top of each other their properties change, and a material with novel hybrid properties emerges, paving the way for design of new materials and nano-devices.
More Graphene News and Graphene Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...