Research Area III: Electrical Methods and Nanotechnology

From BRAIN 2025: A Scientific Vision

Optical engineering and photonics are rapidly progressing fields; ongoing advances in optical hardware and computational optics are likely to be highly pertinent to the BRAIN Initiative. Recent progress in miniaturized optics and CMOS image sensor chips for mobile phones has already yielded new capabilities for fluorescence imaging of neural activity in freely behaving animals. However, most emerging optical components will not have been tailored for neuroscience applications; systems engineering of new instrumentation using these components should pay careful heed to the unique needs of neuroscience experimentation.

Great benefit could come from short‐term and sustained efforts to develop new instrumentation to improve the speed, tissue volume, tissue depth, and number of brain regions that can be monitored in live animals. These advances might come in many forms, such as: new hardware for high‐speed imaging; parallelized detection systems; progress in miniature optics; novel light sources; microscopes with capabilities for large‐scale recordings; wireless or automated imaging instrumentation; next‐generation optical needles for imaging deep tissues; flexible optoelectronics; holographic or light‐field techniques for precise optical interrogations in all three spatial dimensions; CMOS image sensors of larger size, finer pixels or built‐in capabilities for image processing and automated detection of neural activity; or optical systems with scalable architectures and automated analytics for imaging in multiple animals or brain areas concurrently. Many of these instruments might exhibit both optical recording and manipulation capabilities.