Lawrence Livermore Center for Bioengineering


Razi Haque

Key Question

Can we develop technology to see bi-directional brainwaves traveling across the hippocampi of patients?

What We Did

Livermore researchers integrated optical capabilities into their patented flexible thin-film neural implants. Capable of delivering light for neural activation, the devices could provide a high-resolution, minimally invasive method for diagnosing brain disorders.

Lawrence Livermore, one of the CNE’s core partners, recently announced the next stage in development of minimally invasive implantable microsystems:

“In 2021, using a flexible thin-film microelectrode array developed by scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore’s Center for Bioengineering, medical researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, observed a never-before-seen view of how the brain’s signals move in a human subject. The high-density grid layout, small size, and ability to conform to the brain’s surface offered by the Livermore-developed technology enabled the team to see, for the first time, bi-directional brainwaves traveling across the hippocampi of patients.

Added flexibility of the latest Livermore-developed thin-film arrays helps the electrode better conform to the brain’s cortex, establishing more intimate contact between the brain and the array so neural activity is more readily transmitted.

Artificial retina technology, developed in the 2000s at Livermore with partners from other national laboratories, universities, and the private sector, served as a very early precursor to making this discovery possible. Components of this earlier project—a patented thin-film array containing electrodes, an implantable hermetically sealed package, and a surgical tool for placing the array—restored basic vision via a miniature video camera embedded in eyeglasses and an electronic imaging system implanted within the eye. This invention was the first Food and Drug Administration–approved retinal prosthesis for individuals with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa and won a 2009 R&D 100 Award in addition to innovation accolades from Time and Popular Science in 2013. Expanding on this foundational work, recent versions of the Livermore microelectrode array have pushed the limits of existing technology. These examples—the latest versions of the device type involved in the 2021 findings—are poised to help collaborating researchers make more breakthrough discoveries about the brain’s complexities.”

“Researchers need better spatial precision and real-time monitoring over long periods of time to study the brain. With the Laboratory’s additive manufacturing and microfabrication expertise and resources, we identified a combination of materials and a design configuration to develop a neural interface that combines optical and electrical capabilities into a single device.” 

Razi Haque, Implantable Microsystems group leader

More Work

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Georgetown neuroscientists design a model to mirror human visual learning

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