Compliant intracortical implants reduce strains and strain rates in brain tissue in vivo

Arati Sridharan, Jessica K. Nguyen, Jeffrey R. Capadona, Jitendran Muthuswamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Objective. The objective of this research is to characterize the mechanical interactions of (1) soft, compliant and (2) non-compliant implants with the surrounding brain tissue in a rodent brain. Understanding such interactions will enable the engineering of novel materials that will improve stability and reliability of brain implants. Approach. Acute force measurements were made using a load cell in n = 3 live rats, each with 4 craniotomies. Using an indentation method, brain tissue was tested for changes in force using established protocols. A total of 4 non-compliant, bare silicon microshanks, 3 non-compliant polyvinyl acetate (PVAc)-coated silicon microshanks, and 6 compliant, nanocomposite microshanks were tested. Stress values were calculated by dividing the force by surface area and strain was estimated using a linear stress-strain relationship. Micromotion effects from breathing and vascular pulsatility on tissue stress were estimated from a 5 s interval of steady-state measurements. Viscoelastic properties were estimated using a second-order Prony series expansion of stress-displacement curves for each shank. Main results. The distribution of strain values imposed on brain tissue for both compliant nanocomposite microshanks and PVAc-coated, non-compliant silicon microshanks were significantly lower compared to non-compliant bare silicon shanks. Interestingly, step-indentation experiments also showed that compliant, nanocomposite materials significantly decreased stress relaxation rates in the brain tissue at the interface (p < 0.05) compared to non-compliant silicon and PVAc-coated silicon materials. Furthermore, both PVAc-coated non-compliant silicon and compliant nanocomposite shanks showed significantly reduced (by 4-5 fold) stresses due to tissue micromotion at the interface. Significance. The results of this study showed that soft, adaptive materials reduce strains and strain rates and micromotion induced stresses in the surrounding brain tissue. Understanding the material behavior at the site of tissue contact will help to improve neural implant design.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number036002
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • brain machine interface
  • microelectrodes
  • nanocomposites
  • neural interfaces
  • prostheses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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