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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Silicon Integrated High-density Electrocortical and Retinal Neural Interfaces

  • Author(s): Ha, Sohmyung
  • Advisor(s): Cauwenberghs, Gert
  • et al.

Recent interest and initiatives in brain research have driven a worldwide effort towards developing implantable neural interface systems with high spatiotemporal resolution and spatial coverage extending to the whole brain. Electrocorticography (ECoG) promises a minimally invasive, chronically implantable neural interface with resolution and spatial coverage capabilities that, when appropriately scaled, meet the needs of recently proposed brain initiatives. Current ECoG technologies, however, typically rely on cm-sized electrodes and wired operation, severely limiting their resolution and long-term use.

The work presented here has advanced micro-electrocorticography (uECoG) technologies for wireless high-density cortical neural interfaces in two main directions: flexible active uECoG arrays; and modular fully integrated uECoG systems. This dissertation presents a systematic design methodology which addresses unique design challenges posed by the extreme densities, form factors and power budgets of these fully implantable neural interface systems, with experimental validation of their performance for neural signal acquisition, stimulation, and wireless powering and data communication. Notable innovations include 1) first demonstration of simultaneous wireless power and data telemetry at 6.78 Mbps data rate over a single 13.56 MHz inductive link; 2) integrated recording from a flexible active electrode ECoG array with 85 dB dynamic range at 7.7 nJ energy per 16-b sample; and 3) the first fully integrated and encapsulated wireless neural-interface-on-chip microsystem for non-contact neural sensing and energy-replenishing adiabatic stimulation delivering 145 uA current at 6 V compliance within 2.25 mm3 volume.

In addition, the work presented here on advancing the resolution and coverage of neural interfaces extends further from the cortex to the retina. Despite considerable advances in retinal prostheses over the last two decades, the resolution of restored vision has remained severely limited, well below the 20/200 acuity threshold of blindness. Towards drastic improvements in spatial resolution, this dissertation presents a scalable architecture for retinal prostheses in which each stimulation electrode is directly activated by incident light and powered by a common voltage pulse transferred over a single wireless inductive link. The hybrid optical addressability and electronic powering scheme provides for separate spatial and temporal control over stimulation, and further provides optoelectronic gain for substantially lower light intensity thresholds than other optically addressed retinal prostheses using passive microphotodiode arrays. The architecture permits the use of high-density electrode arrays with ultra-high photosensitive silicon nanowires, obviating the need for excessive wiring and high-throughput data telemetry. Instead, the single inductive link drives the entire array of electrodes through two wires and

provides external control over waveform parameters for the common voltage stimulation. A complete system comprising inductive telemetry link, stimulation pulse

demodulator, charge-balancing series capacitor, and nanowire-based electrode device is integrated and validated ex vivo on rat retina tissue. Measurements demonstrate control over retinal neural activity both by light and electrical bias, validating the feasibility of the proposed architecture and its system components as an important first step towards a high-resolution optically addressed retinal prosthesis.

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