January 21:

Polina Anikeeva

Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT

Duncan Hall 4 pm

Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials for Neural Interrogation


The mammalian nervous system is often compared to an electrical circuit, and its dynamics and function are governed by ionic currents across the membranes of neurons. Many neurological disorders are characterized by inhibited/amplified neural activity in a particular region of the nervous system (e.g., depression) or lack of communication between the two regions (e.g., paraplegia following spinal cord injury). Current approaches to treatment of these disorders are often based on drugs with undesirable side effects and limited terms of effectiveness, or on mechanically invasive and bulky electronic devices. Consequently, there is a pressing need for biocompatible materials and devices allowing for precise minimally invasive manipulation and monitoring of neural activity.

In Bioelectronics Group, we are taking two complementary materials approaches to neural stimulation and recording: (1) Flexible polymer and hybrid optoelectronic fibers for intimate neural interfaces; (2) Magnetic nanomaterials for minimally invasive manipulation of neural activity.

In my talk, I will illustrate how a fabrication process inspired by optical fiber production yields flexible multifunctional probes capable of optical, electronic and pharmacological interfaces with neural tissues in vivo. I will then demonstrate how these fiber-inspired neural probes can be tailored to applications within a specific part of the nervous system, such as the brain or spinal cord. Finally, my talk will cover materials synthesis and physics that enable minimally invasive neural stimulation via functional fusion of magnetic nanomaterials and ion channels on neuronal membranes. I will describe applications of the remote magnetothermal paradigm in stimulation of intact brain circuits, and illustrate how materials design can enable multiple interrogation modalities with alternating magnetic fields.

–Polina Anikeeva

About the Speaker

Polina Anikeeva received her BS in Physics from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in 2003. After graduation, she spent a year at Los Alamos National Lab where she worked on developing photovoltaic cells based on semiconductor quantum dots. She then enrolled in a PhD program in Materials Science at MIT and graduated in January 2009 with her thesis dedicated to the design of light-emitting devices based on organic materials and nanoparticles. She completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford University, where she developed implantable devices for simultaneous optical stimulation and high-throughput electronic recording from neural circuits during free behavior.

Anikeeva joined the faculty of MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering in July 2011 as the AMAX career development assistant professor. Now an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, her lab at MIT focuses on the development of flexible and minimally invasive materials and devices for neural recording, stimulation and repair. She is also a recipient of the NSF CAREER Award, DARPA Young Faculty Award and Dresselhaus Fund Award, among others.