Blackrock Microsystems human neuroscience research capabilities

Blackrock’s successful track record of human neuroscience research extends more than a decade. Our Utah Array, for example, has become the gold standard for single-unit recordings in human patients. Blackrock products are continually chosen for the highest profile human neuroprosthetics research projects such as BrainGate, DARPA Revolutionizing Prosthetics, DARPA Restoring Active Memory and DARPA HAPTIX.

Our products and systems are uniquely configured for human research

For the past decade, our product and systems have been engineered to comply with all relevant human-research safety standards. Product features and configurations have evolved based on feedback from customers to meet the pressing demands of their clinical research. For instance, Blackrock offers the only fully implantable high-channel-count full-bandwidth amplifier for human single unit recordings, the CerePlex™ I.

Blackrock expertise in human research

We have worked extensively with hospitals and research institutions around the world and can help you with government or hospital regulatory bodies and by providing guidance and training in the surgical implantation of the Utah Array.

Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) setupA complete Brain-Machine Interface setup

  1. Utah Electrode Arrays (2)—two arrays enable recording from hundreds of neurons across two different brain regions. This rich signal set enables control of more degrees of freedom in a prosthetic device.

  2. Patient Cables (2)—provide a noise-immune link between the Utah Array and NeuroPort system and also can measure impedances of all electrodes on the array in less than one minute.

  3. Front-End Amplifier—amplifies and digitizes inputs from analog headstages (up to 128 channels) before sending them via fiberoptic link to the NeuroPort System.

  4. Front-End Amplifier Power Supply—low-noise medical grade power supply for front-end amplifier.

  5. NeuroPort System (256-Channel)—a powerful system for signal acquisition and display. Signal filtering and spike sorting occur in real-time via the on-board processor. These data are immediately available for control algorithms driving the prosthetic device. 32 analog and 32 digital inputs provide ample connectivity for other experiment control and monitoring devices.

Setup overview

Blackrock systems are at the heart of the most groundbreaking human neuroprosthetic projects in the world. This includes projects that allow humans with paralysis to control robotic arms with a high degree of freedom—using only their thoughts. This application has been the dream of many researchers for decades. Just imagine the impact on quality of life for patients who can interact with the world for the first time after complete paralysis.

Using two Utah Arrays in this setup gives the researcher access to hundreds of neurons and allows for signals from two different regions in the brain’s motor-control stream. This provides rich neural signal input to the researcher’s control algorithms and allows the patient to control sophisticated robotic devices. The NeuroPort™ System is powered by real-time processors that make neural data available to the researcher’s control algorithms with ultra-low latency and fixed timing. Both aspects are essential in delivering control of the robotic device without excess time-lag or timing uncertainty, which would make the device impossible for the patient to control. The NeuroPort System also comes with a feature-rich API that provides the researcher’s custom software a simple means to connect to the system and access the data online.

Major setup benefits

A high-performance brain-machine-interface must have access to recordings from hundreds of neurons to control a high-degree-of-freedom prosthetic device. In essence, signals from many neurons must be streamed in real time. The Utah Array is the only FDA-cleared microelectrode array capable of recording hundreds of neurons from the human cortex. The NeuroPort System gives researchers the power and flexibility to implement real-time control strategies using these signals.

Customer example

Dr. Andy Schwartz and his University of Pittsburgh team are using this system to push the limits of robotic systems that can be controlled entirely from brain recordings.

Compatible products

Epilepsy monitoring using ECoGEpilepsy Monitoring with ECoG setup from Blackrock Microsystems

  1. ECoG Grid Array—a flexible, customizable electrocorticography grid array for mapping a targeted brain area.

  2. Cabrio headstages—these compact headstages connect directly to the lead from the ECoG to provide a noise-free link to the NeuroPort System.

  3. Front-End Amplifier—amplifies and digitizes inputs from analog headstages (up to 128 channels) before sending them via fiberoptic link to the NeuroPort System.

  4. Front-End Amplifier Power Supply—low-noise medical grade power supply for front-end amplifier.

  5. NeuroPort System (128-channel)—acquires, displays and saves up to 128 ECoG channels.

Setup overview

Epilepsy resection procedures present frequent opportunities for researchers to perform experimental studies on human subjects. Therefore many Blackrock clinical customers are affiliated with epilepsy centers and doctors. Monitoring epileptic focus resection provides researchers with access to human subjects with a grid of electrodes positioned on their brain. This permits research studies with no added risk to the patient.

The NeuroPort System provides flexible visualization and processing beyond that available from clinical EEG systems used to diagnose patients. The NeuroPort System also has a rich API that gives the researcher access to the data online for real-time experiment control and brain-machine-interface applications.

Major setup benefits

Implanted electrodes for epilepsy monitoring present an opportunity for neurological research with minimal added risk to the patient. The NeuroPort System provides the researcher with a powerful research platform without disrupting his or her clinical objective.

Customer example

Dr. Paul House at the University of Utah uses this system to study speech generation in humans. He has also used this platform to compare the information that can be obtained from a variety of electrode array platforms.

Related products

Epilepsy monitoring using microelectrodesBlackrock Microsystems setup for Epilepsy Monitoring with Microelectrodes

  1. CerePlex I—the world’s first implantable 128-channel amplifier for single unit recordings in human patients. It provides unprecedented access to many neurons and fosters patient comfort, since only one small lead exits the skin.

  2. Digital Hub—accepts inputs from up to four CerePlex headstages (up to 128 channels. Optical transmission to the NSP facilitates isolation and long-distance transmission.

  3. NeuroPort System—128-channel neural signal processor provides for acquisition, display and storage of the neural signals. It has filtering, display and spike sorting algorithms specifically tailored to recording action potentials from many neurons.

Setup overview

Current treatment for intractable epilepsy involves using an ECoG grid to identify the approximately 1-to-2 cm of brain tissue that initiates a seizure (seizure focus). This section of tissue is then removed and, along with it, all associated function. By using a Utah Array instead of an ECoG grid, the focus can be intensified to millimeter rather than centimeter scale. This could yield the same therapeutic benefit as ECoG electrodes with much less tissue resected.

For the first time it is possible to perform long-term monitoring with a cortical microelectrode array in human patients. The CerePlex I combines the benefits of the gold standard Utah Array with an implantable 128-channel full-bandwidth amplifier. CerePlex I is Blackrock’s most capable and advanced product to date, reflecting its years of development. It holds the potential to provide a leap forward in epilepsy diagnosis, treatment and standard of care.

Major benefits of this setup

Epilepsy monitoring for seizure resection usually lasts one to several weeks. During this timespan the patient is instrumented with electrodes. The previous form-factor of the Utah Array and associated Patient Cable are unsuitable for such medium-term, semi-permanent implantation. In contrast, the implantable nature of the CerePlex I, along with its onboard multiplexing circuitry, permits the Utah Array to be implanted for up to 30 days with only a small lead exiting the skin. This makes it possible to monitor the patient with a high-resolution Utah Array rather than an ECoG grid.

Customer example

Dr. Cathy Schevon of Columbia University uses the CerePlex I to study epilepsy at single-neuron resolution. The implantable digitizing amplifier and multiplexing circuitry reduces the transcutaneous output to a single flexible lead, which provides noise-immunity and enhances patient comfort.

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