Insect-machine interface: A carbon nanotube-enhanced flexible neural probe

W. M. Tsang, Alice L. Stone, David Otten, Zane N. Aldworth, Tom L. Daniel, John G. Hildebrand, Richard B. Levine, Joel Voldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We developed microfabricated flexible neural probes (FNPs) to provide a bi-directional electrical link to the moth Manduca sexta. These FNPs can deliver electrical stimuli to, and capture neural activity from, the insect's central nervous system. They are comprised of two layers of polyimide with gold sandwiched in between in a split-ring geometry that incorporates the bi-cylindrical anatomical structure of the insect's ventral nerve cord. The FNPs provide consistent left and right abdominal stimulation both across animals and within an individual animal. The features of the stimulation (direction, threshold charge) are aligned with anatomical features of the moth. We also have used these FNPs to record neuronal activity in the ventral nerve cord of the moth. Finally, by integrating carbon nanotube (CNT)-Au nanocomposites into the FNPs we have reduced the interfacial impedance between the probe and the neural tissue, thus reducing the magnitude of stimulation voltage. This in turn allows use of the FNPs with a wireless stimulator, enabling stimulation and flight biasing of freely flying moths. Together, these FNPs present a potent new platform for manipulating and measuring the neural circuitry of insects, and for other nerves in humans and other animals with similar dimensions as the ventral nerve cord of the moth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-365
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2012


  • Carbon nanotube
  • Microfabrication
  • Moth
  • Neural probe
  • Wireless system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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