Neural Dust: A Sensor Implanted in Brain Controls Prosthetics

The pace at which technology is moving ahead is astonishing and amusing. Technology has made possible nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, cyborgs and much more. Technology did not stop moving forward with these achievements rather it is set to achieve much more in near future. A team of researchers from the University of  California has come together to design a sensor that controls prosthetics, after being implanted in the brain

The size of the sensor designed by these researchers is that of a rice grain. It is a wireless, battery-less implantable sensors, known as “neural dust“. It measures just 3mm long and 1mm wide. The team plans to shrink the size of the sensor down further.

The sensor is enabled to track the neural activity in real time. It works by converting ultrasound waves into electricity.

Ryan Neely, a team member said that “The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology. If a paraplegic wants to control a computer or a robotic arm, you would just implant this electrode in the brain and it would last essentially a lifetime.”

The team of researchers believes that the sensor is also capable of monitoring tumours and efficacy of cancer therapies. They further their vision by believing that they could develop a new version of the sensor. These sensors would then even treat disorders like epilepsy.

To test the sensors, the team conducted an experiment where the sensors were implanted in the muscles and peripheral nerves of a rat. The findings of the experiment were published in the Neuron journal.

Once implanted in the rats, ultrasound was used both to power the sensors and read out the measurements. Ultrasound technology was used because it is already well-developed for hospital use, and the vibrations it gives off can penetrate nearly anywhere in the body, unlike radio waves, the researchers said.

While the experiments so far have involved the peripheral nervous system and muscles, the scientists believe the neural dust motes could work equally well in the central nervous system and brain to control prosthetics.

 

Shobith MAKAM Written by:

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