In order to understand how neural signals propagate to conduct specific functions in behaving animals and how individual neurons are physically connected in the context of behavior, advanced tools should be available at the hands of neuroscientists. The Multimodal Integrated Neural Technologies (MINT) hub aims to develop and provide tools that are able to read from and modulate neurons at multiple sites independently at high spatial and temporal resolutions. The hub will disseminate tools and methods to correlate the recorded cell activity with the structural connection. In this way, the connectivity of active cells can be visualized, labeled, and traced for detailed functional mapping. The mission of the MINT hub is to provide a collection of tools, synergistically developed, integrated, and available to the neuroscience community, to address one theme: connecting neurophysiology and structural analysis with a greater scale and resolution. The synergistic integration of these neurotechnology tools at the MINT Hub would accelerate the rate of discovery in neuroscience. This in turn can be expected to pave the way to improved treatments for neurological disorders and to breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, especially neuromorphic computing. The MINT hub will provide annual training workshops for new users to be familiar with new technologies and able to use them effectively. To achieve sustainability, the hardware tools will be actively marketed to the community and those with sustainable volume will be transitioned to commercialization partners. Importantly, this program will cross-train neuroscience and technology personnel during the course of this program, resulting in preparation of a new generation of multi-disciplinary engineers and scientists.
This hub uniquely combines high-density electrodes, chemical sensing, optical stimulation, and cell labeling. Fiberless high-density optoelectrodes can allow optical stimulation of individual or few neurons with high specificity and selectivity using monolithically integrated micro-LEDs or optical waveguides on multi-shank silicon probes. Carbon microthreads will be used to create advanced arrays that will dramatically increase the ability to record from interconnected neurons and label those cells with high accuracy. Advanced metal alloys will also be used to greatly enhance the signal-to-noise ratio of miniaturized electrodes. The MINT hub will innovate viral vector delivery and tissue clearing in the nervous system and combine these with multispectral labeling for intact cell phenotyping. Furthermore, an open-source software will be developed to improve the accuracy and efficiency of anatomical reconstruction for creating connectivity maps. The MINT hub will validate the developed tools and methods in three in-vivo experiments to exemplify what can be accomplished when the proposed modalities and methods are synergistically integrated. This NeuroTechnology Hub award is co-funded by the Division of Emerging Frontiers within the Directorate for Biological Sciences, and the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental & Transport Systems within the Directorate for Engineering as part of the BRAIN Initiative and NSF's Understanding the Brain activities.