Electrostatic microactuators for precise positioning of neural microelectrodes

Jitendran Muthuswamy, Murat Okandan, Tilak Jain, Aaron Gilletti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Microelectrode arrays used for monitoring single and multineuronal action potentials often fail to record from the same population of neurons over a period of time likely due to micromotion of neurons away from the microelectrode, gliosis around the recording site and also brain movement due to behavior. We report here novel electrostatic microactuated microelectrodes that will enable precise repositioning of the microelectrodes within the brain tissue. Electrostatic comb-drive microactuators and associated microelectrodes are fabricated using the SUMMiT V™ (Sandia's Ultraplanar Multilevel MEMS Technology) process, a five-layer polysilicon micromachining technology of the Sandia National labs, NM. The microfabricated microactuators enable precise bidirectional positioning of the microelectrodes in the brain with accuracy in the order of 1 μm. The microactuators allow for a linear translation of the microelectrodes of up to 5 mm in either direction making it suitable for positioning microelectrodes in deep structures of a rodent brain. The overall translation was reduced to approximately 2 mm after insulation of the microelectrodes with epoxy for monitoring multiunit activity. The microactuators are capable of driving the microelectrodes in the brain tissue with forces in the order of several micro-Newtons. Single unit recordings were obtained from the somatosensory cortex of adult rats in acute experiments demonstrating the feasibility of this technology. Further optimization of the insulation, packaging and interconnect issues will be necessary before this technology can be validated in long-term experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1748-1755
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2005


  • Brain implants
  • MEMS
  • Microdrive
  • Multi-unit activity
  • Prostheses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering


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