Flexible fiber optic probes perform neural stimulation of high level

The application of fiber optic probes is regarded as the leading technology that allows for the detection and manipulation of neural behavior while they have significant scientific and technological potential. At the same time, the flexibility of biocompatible fiber probes remains the main challenge for researchers, even though functional neural probes have been recently produced.

Thus, researchers present flexible multimaterial fiber optic probes with compact size where the metal electrodes are installed into a polymer optical fiber with a double-clad waveguide. It should be noted that such a design improves greatly the mechanical qualities of the fiber optic system, herewith, it offers a high level of optical transmission leading to the reduction of fiber probe impedance.

To be more precise, novel fiber optic probes perform both neural stimulation and efficient detection at the single-cell level that is considered to be more than 6 times that of the standard probe such as an all-polymer optical fiber. The results of the fiber probe testing show strong efficiency in the detection of the electrophysiological signal, although their mechanical properties are not suitable to the soft neural tissues.

Additionally, such fiber optic systems have several limitations in long-term neural signal detection because of the reduction of signal‐to‐noise ratio and the possible inflammatory response between the fiber optic probes and tissues. However, further development of simultaneous stimulation and recording provided by fiber optic technology faces several obstacles, that is why the solution to the problem has the highest priority because of the technological importance of the smart nerve-machine interface.

Nowadays it is necessary to create multifunctional compact fiber probes with perfect mechanical qualities, “high biocompatibility, excellent optical transmission, and low impedance” as well as to examine potential applications of optical fibers to provide long‐term simultaneous stimulation and signaling. The operating principle of new fiber optic probes is based on a combined scale‐down and constant‐scale drawing technology.

The design of the fiber optic system includes a metal electrode that allows for recording neural signals and a double‐clad waveguide that provides optical stimulation. Thus, the flexible fiber optic probe can be also developed by applying thermal drawing technology at a lower cost. Finally, novel fiber probes demonstrate extreme flexibility and ideal bending resistance of the used optical fibers. Additionally, the low storage modulus leads to greater restoration ability after bending deformation.

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