Implantable microelectrodes are useful for monitoring neural response patterns in the auditory cortex, however chronic neural recordings can often deteriorate with time (e.g. impedance measures across electrode arrays generally increase monotonically over the first 7 days post-implant). This problem is caused by the increasing spatial distribution of reactive tissue responses (corresponding to changes in impedance spectra along the electrode-tissue-interface). Therefore, the design of microelectrode probes must ensure that the neuronal ensembles lie within a cylindrical radius of the recording electrodes. In this chapter, chronic neural recording failure is examined via cortical spike patterns, histological analyses, indentation experiments, and finite element models. Next, the microfabrication of the “Utah” electrode array and the “Michigan” probe is compared to determine how their size, shape, and geometry address: (1) the spatial distribution of neurons (as related to recording quality); (2) the initial penetrating profile (as related to insertion killzones); (3) the reactive cell responses (as related to glial encapsulation); (4) the anchoring of the probe’s position in the tissue (as related to micromotions) and (5) the embedding of various bioactive reagents (ex: growth factors, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.). Finally, a novel hydrogel “Dropping Method” is proposed for controlling the biocompatibility and mechanical properties at the electrode-tissue-interface.
Part of the book: An Excursus into Hearing Loss