Nanotech ‘Tattoo’ Can Map Emotion and Monitor Muscle Activity

Summary: New technology could help improve muscle control and rehabilitation for those with stroke.

Source: AFTAU.

Novel skin electrode is comfortable and has endless commercial and medical applications, says Tel Aviv University researcher.

A new temporary “electronic tattoo” developed by Tel Aviv University that can measure the activity of muscle and nerve cells researchers is poised to revolutionize medicine, rehabilitation, and even business and marketing research.

The tattoo consists of a carbon electrode, an adhesive surface that attaches to the skin, and a nanotechnology-based conductive polymer coating that enhances the electrode’s performance. It records a strong, steady signal for hours on end without irritating the skin.

Image shows the tattoo.
A nanotech “tattoo” was developed by Tel Aviv University. image is credited to AFTAU.

The electrode, developed by Prof. Yael Hanein, head of TAU’s Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, may improve the therapeutic restoration of damaged nerves and tissue — and may even lead to new insights into our emotional life.

Prof. Hanein’s research was published last month in Scientific Reports and presented at an international nanomedicine program held at TAU.

“Stick it on and forget about it”

One major application of the new electrode is the mapping of emotion by monitoring facial expressions through electric signals received from facial muscles. “The ability to identify and map people’s emotions has many potential uses,” said Prof. Hanein. “Advertisers, pollsters, media professionals, and others — all want to test people’s reactions to various products and situations. Today, with no accurate scientific tools available, they rely mostly on inevitably subjective questionnaires.

“Researchers worldwide are trying to develop methods for mapping emotions by analyzing facial expressions, mostly via photos and smart software,” Prof. Hanein continued. “But our skin electrode provides a more direct and convenient solution.”

The device was first developed as an alternative to electromyography, a test that assesses the health of muscles and nerve cells. It’s an uncomfortable and unpleasant medical procedure that requires patients to lie sedentary in the lab for hours on end. Often a needle is stuck into muscle tissue to record its electrical activity, or patients are swabbed with a cold, sticky gel and attached to unwieldy surface electrodes.

“Our tattoo permits patients to carry on with their daily routines, while the electrode monitors their muscle and nerve activity,” said Prof. Hanein. “The idea is: stick it on and forget about it.”

Applications for rehabilitation and more

According to Prof. Hanein, the new skin electrode has other important therapeutic applications. The tattoo will be used to monitor the muscle activity of patients with neurodegenerative diseases in a study at Tel Aviv Medical Center.

“But that’s not all,” said Prof. Hanein. “The physiological data measured in specific muscles may be used in the future to indicate the alertness of drivers on the road; patients in rehabilitation following stroke or brain injury may utilize the ‘tattoo’ to improve muscle control; and amputees may employ it to move artificial limbs with remaining muscles.”

About this technology research article

Funding: The electrode is the product of a European Research Council (ERC) project and received support from the BSMT Consortium of Israel’s Ministry of Economy.

Source: George Hunka – AFTAU
Image Source: This image is credited to AFTAU.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Temporary-tattoo for long-term high fidelity biopotential recordings” by Lilach Bareket, Lilah Inzelberg, David Rand, Moshe David-Pur, David Rabinovich, Barak Brandes and Yael Hanein in Scientific Reports. Published online May 12 2016 doi:10.1038/srep25727

Cite This Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]AFTAU. “Nanotech ‘Tattoo’ Can Map Emotion and Monitor Muscle Activity.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 12 July 2016.
<>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]AFTAU. (2016, July 12). Nanotech ‘Tattoo’ Can Map Emotion and Monitor Muscle Activity. NeuroscienceNew. Retrieved July 12, 2016 from[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]AFTAU. “Nanotech ‘Tattoo’ Can Map Emotion and Monitor Muscle Activity.” (accessed July 12, 2016).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]


Temporary-tattoo for long-term high fidelity biopotential recordings

Electromyography is a non-invasive method widely used to map muscle activation. For decades, it was commonly accepted that dry metallic electrodes establish poor electrode-skin contact, making them impractical for skin electromyography applications. Gelled electrodes are therefore the standard in electromyography with their use confined, almost entirely, to laboratory settings. Here we present novel dry electrodes, exhibiting outstanding electromyography recording along with excellent user comfort. The electrodes were realized using screen-printing of carbon ink on a soft support. The conformity of the electrodes helps establish direct contact with the skin, making the use of a gel superfluous. Plasma polymerized 3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene was used to enhance the impedance of the electrodes. Cyclic voltammetry measurements revealed an increase in electrode capacitance by a factor of up to 100 in wet conditions. Impedance measurements show a reduction factor of 10 in electrode impedance on human skin. The suitability of the electrodes for long-term electromyography recordings from the hand and from the face is demonstrated. The presented electrodes are ideally-suited for many applications, such as brain-machine interfacing, muscle diagnostics, post-injury rehabilitation, and gaming.

“Temporary-tattoo for long-term high fidelity biopotential recordings” by Lilach Bareket, Lilah Inzelberg, David Rand, Moshe David-Pur, David Rabinovich, Barak Brandes and Yael Hanein in Scientific Reports. Published online May 12 2016 doi:10.1038/srep25727

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