We introduce the design and theoretical analysis of a fiber-optic architecture for neural recording without contrast agents, which transduces neural electrical signals into a multiplexed optical readout. Our sensor design is inspired by electro-optic modulators, which modulate the refractive index of a waveguide by applying a voltage across an electro-optic core material. We estimate that this design would allow recording of the activities of individual neurons located at points along a 10-cm length of optical fiber with 40 µm axial resolution and sensitivity down to 100 µV using commercially available optical reflectometers as readout devices. Neural recording sites detect a potential difference against a reference and apply this potential to a capacitor. The waveguide serves as one of the plates of the capacitor, so charge accumulation across the capacitor results in an optical effect. A key concept of the design is that the sensitivity can be improved by increasing the capacitance. To maximize the capacitance, we utilize a microscopic layer of material with high relative permittivity. If suitable materials can be found — possessing high capacitance per unit area as well as favorable properties with respect to toxicity, optical attenuation, ohmic junctions, and surface capacitance —
then such sensing fibers could, in principle, be scaled down to few-micron cross-sections for minimally invasive neural interfacing. We study these material requirements and propose potential material choices. Custom-designed multimaterial optical fibers, probed using a reflectometric readout, may, therefore, provide a powerful platform for neural sensing.
Resources associated with this Publication:
[Fiber reflectometric probes: multiplexed recording down a fiber]