Conducting polymers for neural interfaces: challenges in developing an effective long-term implant
Metal electrode materials used in active implantable devices are often associated with poor long-term stimulation and recording performance. Modification of these materials with conducting polymer coatings has been suggested as an approach for improving the neural tissue-electrode interface and increasing the effective lifetime of these implants. Neural interfaces ideally have intimate contact between the excitable tissue and the electrode to maintain signal quality and activation of neural cells. The outcomes of current research into conducting polymers as coatings has potential to enhance this tissue-material contact by increasing the electrode surface area and roughness as well as allowing delivery of bioactive signals to neural cells. However, challenges facing conducting polymers include poor electroactive stability and mechanical properties as well as control of the mobility, concentration and presentation of bioactive molecules. The impact of biological inclusions on polymer properties and their ongoing performance in neural prosthetics requires a greater understanding with future research aimed at controlling and optimising film characteristics for long-term performance. Optimising the electrode interface will require a trade-off between desired electrical, mechanical, chemical and biological properties.