New Fibers Implanted in the Brain Can Transmit Drugs, Light, and Electrical Signals

The human brain's complexity, with its sheer size and the variety of signaling methods it uses simultaneously, makes it challenging to study. Conventional neural probes are designed to record a single type of signaling, limiting the information that can be derived from the brain at any point in time. Now researchers at MIT may have found a way to change that. By producing complex multimodal fibers that could be less than the width of a hair, they have created a system that could deliver optical signals and drugs directly into the brain, along with simultaneous electrical readout to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs. In addition to transmitting different kinds of signals, the new fibers are made of polymers that closely resemble the characteristics of neural tissues, allowing them to stay in the body much longer without harming the delicate tissues around them.