Artificial modulation of a neuronal subset through ion channels activation can initiate firing patterns of an entire neural circuit in vivo. As nanovalves in the cell membrane, voltage-gated ion channels can be artificially controlled by the electric field gradient that is caused by externally applied time varying magnetic fields. Herein, we theoretically investigate the feasibility of modulating neural activities by using magnetic spintronic nanostructures. An antiferromagnet/ferromagnet (AFM/FM) structure is explored as neuromodulator. For the FM layer with perpendicular magnetization, stable bidirectional magnetization switching can be achieved by applying in-plane currents through the AFM layer to induce the spin-orbit torque (SOT) due to the spin Hall effect (SHE). This spin-orbit torque neurostimulator (SOTNS) utilizes in-plane charge current pulses to switch the magnetization in the FM layer. The time changing magnetic stray field induces an electric field that modulates the surrounding neurons. The object oriented micromagnetic framework (OOMMF) is used to calculate space- and time-dependent magnetic dynamics of the SOTNS structure. The current-driven magnetization dynamics in the SOTNS has no mechanically moving parts. Furthermore, the size of the SOTNS can be down to tens of nanometers. Thus, arrays of SOTNSs could be fabricated, integrated together, and patterned on a flexible substrate, which gives us much more flexible control of the neuromodulation with cellular resolution.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was financially supported by the Institute of Engineering in Medicine of the University of Minnesota through FY18 IEM Seed Grant Funding Program, National Science Foundation MRSEC facility program, the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship, Centennial Chair Professorship, Robert F Hartmann Endowed Chair, and UROP program from the University of Minnesota.
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