May 17, 2023

Soft Robot Brain Implant Designed to Treat Epilepsy 

Article published by Informa


A new small-scale, soft robotic implant has been designed to help treat epilepsy.  


The flexible robot is inserted into a patient’s skull and sits between the skull and the surface of the brain.


Created by a team from Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the robot is a tiny, foldable electrode array that can be unfurled once inserted through a hole in a patient’s skull, applying consistent pressure to certain parts of the brain. 


This electrode array stimulates and monitors electrical activity in the brain for patients who suffer from neurological conditions such as epilepsy. 


“Minimally invasive neurotechnologies are essential approaches to offer efficient, patient-tailored therapies,” says Stéphanie Lacour, EPFL’s neurotechnology expert. “We needed to design a miniaturized electrode array capable of folding, passing through a small hole in the skull and then deploying in a flat surface resting over the cortex. We then combined concepts from soft bioelectronics and soft robotics.” 


The first prototype consists of an electrode array that fits through a hole 0.7 inches in diameter but can expand to cover a surface of the brain double the size. 


According to the team, the robot’s folding and expanding capabilities are achieved by the device being turned inside out and then extended once deployed in the brain using a pressurized liquid, a method known as eversion.