Objective. Optical fiber devices constitute significant tools for the modulation and interrogation of neuronal circuitry in the mid and deep brain regions. The illuminated brain area during neuromodulation has a direct impact on the spatio-temporal properties of the brain activity and depends solely on the material and geometrical characteristics of the optical fibers. In the present work, we developed two different flexible polymer optical fibers (POFs) with integrated microfluidic channels (MFCs) and an ultra-high numerical aperture (UHNA) for enlarging the illumination angle to achieve efficient neuromodulation. Approach. Three distinct thermoplastic polymers: polysulfone, polycarbonate, and fluorinated ethylene propylene were used to fabricate two step-index UHNA POF neural devices using a scalable thermal drawing process. The POFs were characterized in terms of their illumination map as well as their fluid delivery capability in phantom and adult rat brain slices. Main results. A 100-fold reduced bending stiffness of the proposed fiber devices compared to their commercially available counterparts has been found. The integrated MFCs can controllably deliver dye (trypan blue) on-demand over a wide range of injection rates spanning from 10 nl min-1 to 1000 nl min-1. Compared with commercial silica fibers, the proposed UHNA POFs exhibited an increased illumination area by 17% and 21% under 470 and 650 nm wavelength, respectively. In addition, a fluorescent light recording experiment has been conducted to demonstrate the ability of our UHNA POFs to be used as optical waveguides in fiber photometry. Significance. Our results overcome the current technological limitations of fiber implants that have limited illumination area and we suggest that soft neural fiber devices can be developed using different custom designs for illumination, collection, and photometry applications. We anticipate our work to pave the way towards the development of next-generation functional optical fibers for neuroscience.
- Brain slices
- Microfluidic channels (MCs)
- Neural device
- Polymer optical fibers (POFs)
- Ultra-high numerical aperture (UHNA)