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Achieving long-term stability of thin-film electrodes for neurostimulation.

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Oldroyd, Poppy 
Malliaras, George G 


Implantable electrodes that can reliably measure brain activity and deliver an electrical stimulus to a target tissue are increasingly employed to treat various neurological diseases and neuropsychiatric disorders. Flexible thin-film electrodes have gained attention over the past few years to minimise invasiveness and damage upon implantation. Research has previously focused on optimising the electrode's electrical and mechanical properties; however, their chronic stability must be validated to translate electrodes from a research to a clinical application. Neurostimulation electrodes, which actively inject charge, have yet to reliably demonstrate continuous functionality for ten years or more in vivo, the accepted metric for clinical viability. Long-term stability can only be achieved if the focus switches to investigating how and why such devices fail. Unfortunately, there is a field-wide reluctance to investigate device stability and failures, which hinders device optimisation. This review surveys thin-film electrode designs with a focus on adhesion between electrode layers and the interactions with the surrounding environment. A comprehensive summary of the abiotic failure modes faced by such electrodes is presented, and to encourage investigation, systematic methods for analysing their origin are recommended. Finally, approaches to reducing the likelihood of device failure are offered. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Neural electrodes that can deliver an electrical stimulus to a target tissue are widely used to treat various neurological diseases. Essential to the function of these electrodes is the ability to safely stimulate the target tissue for extended periods (> 10 years); however, this has not yet been clinically achieved. The key to achieving long-term stability is an increased understanding of electrode interactions with the surrounding tissue and subsequent systematic analysis of their failure modes. This review highlights the need for a change in the approach to investigating electrode failure, and in doing so summarizes the common ways in which neural electrodes fail, methods for identifying them and approaches to preventing them.



Bioelectronics, Chronic stability, Neurostimulation, Thin-film electrodes, Electricity, Electrodes, Electrodes, Implanted

Journal Title

Acta Biomater

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Volume Title


Elsevier BV