Abstract

The capability to deliver light to specific locations within the brain using optogenetic tools has opened up new possibilities in the field of neural interfacing. In this context, optical fibers are commonly inserted into the brain to activate or mute neurons using photosensitive proteins. While chronic optogenetic stimulation studies are just beginning to emerge, knowledge gathered in connection with electrophysiological implants suggests that the mechanical mismatch of conventional optical fibers and the cortical tissue may be a significant contributor to neuroinflammatory response. Here, we present the design and fabrication of physiologically responsive, mechanically adaptive optical fibers made of poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) that may mitigate this problem. Produced by a one-step wet-spinning process, the fibers display a tensile storage modulus E of 7000MPa in the dry state at 25°C and can thus readily be inserted into cortical tissue. Exposure to water causes a drastic reduction of E to 35MPa on account of modest swelling with the water. The optical properties at 470 and 590 were comparable with losses of 0.7±0.04dB/cm at 470 nm and 0.6±0.1dB/cm at 590 nm in the dry state and 1.1±0.1dB/cm at 470 nm and 0.9±0.3dB/cm at 590 nm in the wet state. The dry end of a partially switched fiber with a length of 10 cm was coupled with a light-emitting diode with an output of 10.1 mW to deliver light with a power density of >500mW/cm2 from the wet end, which is more than sufficient to stimulate neurons in vivo. Thus, even without a low-refractive index cladding, the physiologically responsive, mechanically adaptive optical fibers presented here appear to be a very useful new tool for future optogenetic studies.

© 2014 Optical Society of America

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