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uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

they move along with the brain mass, thus mini- mizing the danger of irritating the tissue. The sci- entists introduce them into the brain tissue with great precision using tools equipped with tiny suckers. Attached to each of the four-millimeter- long, hair-thin “prongs” or shafts are up to 200 electrodes that “can make a detailed recording of all of the whispering between the nerve cells,” explains Paul. “This allows us to pick up more signals with a single measurement.” The signals are passed along the shaft to tiny contact points partment of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK), just came back from an operation at the Epilepsy Center. Employees of the center planted a tool of this kind, a so-called neural probe, in the rat’s brain. The conventional wire probes used in many research institutes around the world to study the brain from the inside seem like dino- saurs in comparison to these delicate little in- struments with a big effect. They have a single sensor at their tip and are guided to various parts of the brain – with the constant danger of irritating the brain tissue and even causing per- manent damage. The neural probes developed at IMTEK are planted permanently in the brain. They look like tiny forks with a highly flexible han- dle and rigid prongs. Thanks to the soft handle “We deliver the scientific tools for ­finding out what goes on in the brain” 5uni'wissen 04