Spin electronics offers nowadays the possibility to create very sensitive, micrometer-scale magnetic field detectors. "Magntrodes" proposes to exploit this technological advance to create novel tools for probing neuronal magnetic fields at the cellular level.
The first goal of the project will be to develop the magnetic equivalent of an electrode, a ‘magnetrode’, sensitive enough to detect the very small magnetic fields induced by the ionic currents flowing within electrically active neurons, and small enough to probe a limited number of cells. Then, they will adapt magnetrodes also for local nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy; thus, they could record both electromagnetic and chemical activity of neurons. In addition, means for local electric or magnetic stimulation could be integrated in to a magnetrode. Magnetrodes will be tested in vitro and in vivo at various spatial scales, from brain areas down to single neurons. In parallel, based on the measurements with magnetrodes, they will augment existing computational models and develop new ones to characterize the electromagnetic fields emitted by neurons and neuron assemblies. These models will be used to bridge from the activity of single neurons to macroscopic non-invasive measurements such as electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG).
This project shall pave the way towards “magnetophysiology”, which enables investigating electric activity of neurons without disturbing the ionic flow and without physical contact to the cell. New experimental and modeling tools will be created for magnetic measurements and stimulation at neuron scale. The resulting techniques will be applicable in neurosciences, brain–computer interfacing and possibly in the treatment of certain brain diseases.
Funding: EU Contribution 1,700,000 € out of 2,222,049 €
Project duration: 36 months