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Neural Interfaces

In the past decade, methods adapted from experimental physics have transformed our understanding of the nervous system, in areas ranging from optical imaging to large-scale electrical recordings. Going forward, deeper exploration of massively parallel neural networks and efficient bi-directional interface will rely on novel optical and electrical methods for recording and stimulation in the brain, with adequate precision, bandwidth and quantitative analysis. Optical detection of neural activity can be based on Ca indicators, voltage-sensitive dyes, electro-chromic materials, and interferometric techniques for detection of cellular deformations associated with changes of the membrane potential. Optical stimulation is based on either optogenetic, photovoltaic or opto-thermal interfaces. Combined with adaptive optics, these methods may enable detection or stimulation of neural activity with single-cell resolution in a living human eye. To further our understanding of large neural networks, we are also advancing the size, resolution and sophistication of large-scale electrical recordings and stimulation, and using them to develop novel approaches to communication with living neural circuits. For even more precise control of neural activity, we are developing “electronic synapses” - 3-D micro- and nano-electrodes for cell-attached coupling, which may revolutionize electro-neural interfaces by providing continuous modulation of cellular potential, while reducing the stimulation or inhibition thresholds by orders of magnitude, as compared to the standard extracellular electrodes. These developments in neural interfaces will not only further our understanding of the brain and lead to replacement or augmentation of the damaged neural circuitry, such as sensory or motor prosthetics, but may also enable enhancement of our cognitive and sensory capabilities.  

The Neural Interfaces group under the Phys-X umbrella bridges H&S, SoM, SoE, and the Stanford Neurosciences Institute (SNI). It involves the departments of Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, Materials Science, Ophthalmology, and Neurosurgery. 
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