We present a system for scalable and customizable recording and stimulation of neural activity. In large animals and humans, the current benchmark for high spatial and temporal resolution neural interfaces are fixed arrays of wire or silicon electrodes inserted into the parenchyma of the brain. However, probes that are large and stiff enough to penetrate the brain have been shown to cause acute and chronic damage and inflammation, which limits their longevity, stability, and yield. One approach to this problem is to separate the requirements of the insertion device, which should to be as stiff as possible, with the implanted device, which should be as small and flexible as possible. Here, we demonstrate the feasibility and scalability of this approach with a system incorporating fine and flexible thin-film polymer probes, a fine and stiff insertion needle, and a robotic insertion machine. Together the system permits rapid and precise implantation of probes, each individually targeted to avoid observable vasculature and to attain diverse anatomical targets. As an initial demonstration of this system, we implanted arrays of electrodes in rat somatosensory cortex, recorded extracellular action potentials from them, and obtained histological images of the tissue response. This approach points the way toward a new generation of scaleable, stable, and safe neural interfaces, both for the basic scientific study of brain function and for clinical applications.
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