Transparent graphene-based sensors open new window into the brain

Engineers have developing invisible implantable medical sensor microarrays to allow for seeing brain tissue hidden by implants. The researchers chose graphene because it allows the electronic circuit elements to be transparent across a large spectrum, from ultraviolet to deep infrared.
“It is soft and flexible, and a good tradeoff between transparency, strength and conductivity,” says Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UW-Madison. The transparent sensors could be a boon to neuromodulation therapies, which physicians increasingly are using to control symptoms, restore function, and relieve pain in patients with diseases or disorders such as hypertension, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or others, says Kip Ludwig, a program director for the National Institutes of Health neural engineering research efforts.
Currently, he says, researchers are limited in their ability to directly observe how the body generates electrical signals, as well as how it reacts to externally generated electrical signals. “Clear electrodes in combination with recent technological advances in optogenetics and optical voltage probes will enable researchers to isolate those biological mechanisms. This fundamental knowledge could be catalytic in dramatically improving existing neuromodulation therapies and identifying new therapies.”