The role of inflammation on the functionality of intracortical microelectrodes

Janak Gaire, Heui Chang Lee, Nicholas Hilborn, Ray Ward, Mary Regan, Kevin J. Otto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective. Neuroinflammation has long been associated with the performance decline of intracortical microelectrodes (IMEs). Consequently, several strategies, including the use of anti-inflammatories, have been employed to mitigate the inflammation surrounding IMEs. However, these strategies have had limited success towards achieving a chronically viable cortical neural interface, questioning the efficacy of anti-inflammatory approach. Approach. Herein, we conducted a systematic study in rats implanted with functional devices by modulating inflammation via systemic injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), dexamethasone (DEX), a combination of both, or none to assess the degree of inflammation on device functionality. We hypothesized that implanted rats treated with LPS will have a negative impact, and rats treated with DEX will have a positive impact on functionality IMEs and histological outcome. Main results. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not observe adverse effects in recording metrics among different groups with LPS and/or DEX treatment despite alterations in initial pro-inflammatory markers. We also did not observe any functional benefit of anti-inflammatory treatment. Regardless of the treatment conditions, the recording quality degraded at chronic time points. In end-point histology, implanted rats that received LPS had significantly lower NeuN density and higher levels of CD68 surrounding the implant site, indicative of the pro-inflammatory effect of LPS, which, however, contradicted with the recorded results. Significance. Collectively, our results suggest that acute inflammatory events may not be the key driver for functional degradation of IMEs. Future intervention strategies geared towards improving the functional longevity of intracortical devices may benefit using multi-modal approaches rather than a single approach, such as controlling the initial inflammatory response.

Original languageEnglish
Article number066027
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Oct 23 2018


  • functionality of IMEs
  • intracortical microelectrodes (IMEs)
  • neural recording
  • neuroinflammation


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