Brain responses to micro-machined silicon devices

D. H. Szarowski, M. D. Andersen, S. Retterer, A. J. Spence, M. Isaacson, H. G. Craighead, J. N. Turner, W. Shain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

672 Scopus citations


Micro-machined neural prosthetic devices can be designed and fabricated to permit recording and stimulation of specific sites in the nervous system. Unfortunately, the long-term use of these devices is compromised by cellular encapsulation. The goals of this study were to determine if device size, surface characteristics, or insertion method affected this response. Devices with two general designs were used. One group had chisel-shaped tips, sharp angular corners, and surface irregularities on the micrometer size scale. The second group had rounded corners, and smooth surfaces. Devices of the first group were inserted using a microprocessor-controlled inserter. Devices of the second group were inserted by hand. Comparisons were made of responses to the larger devices in the first group with devices from the second group. Responses were assessed 1 day and 1, 2, 4, 6, and 12 weeks after insertions. Tissues were immunochemically labeled for glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) or vimentin to identify astrocytes, or for ED1 to identify microglia. For the second comparison devices from the first group with different cross-sectional areas were analyzed. Similar reactive responses were observed following insertion of all devices; however, the volume of tissue involved at early times, <1 week, was proportional to the cross-sectional area of the devices. Responses observed after 4 weeks were similar for all devices. Thus, the continued presence of devices promotes formation of a sheath composed partly of reactive astrocytes and microglia. Both GFAP-positive and -negative cells were adherent to all devices. These data indicate that device insertion promotes two responses - an early response that is proportional to device size and a sustained response that is independent of device size, geometry, and surface roughness. The early response may be associated with the amount of damage generated during insertion. The sustained response is more likely due to tissue-device interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-35
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 5 2003


  • Brain response
  • Cellular encapsulation
  • Micro-machined silicon device
  • Tissue-device interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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