Wireless brain implant uses tenth the power of wired systems

August 14, 2020 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Wireless brain implant uses tenth the power of wired systems
Researchers at Stanford University have shown how to create a wireless device for gathering and transmitting accurate neural signals from a brain implant with a tenth of the power required by current wire-enabled systems

A brain implant connecting the nervous system to electronic devices helps people with spinal cord injuries regain some motor control but uses wires.

A Stanford research team has been focusing on improving the brain-computer interface, a device implanted beneath the skull on the surface of a patient's brain. This brain implant connects the human nervous system to an electronic device that might, for instance, help restore some motor control to a person with a spinal cord injury, or someone with a neurological condition like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig's disease.

The current generation of these devices record enormous amounts of neural activity, then transmit these brain signals through wires to a computer. The reason wireless brain-computer interfaces are not used to do this is the amount of power that the devices require to transmit the data generate too much heat to be safe for the patient.

A team led by electrical engineers and neuroscientists Krishna Shenoy, PhD, and Boris Murmann, PhD, and neurosurgeon and neuroscientist Jaimie Henderson, MD, have shown how it would be possible to create a wireless device, capable of gathering and transmitting accurate neural signals, but using a tenth of the power required by current wire-enabled systems. These wireless devices would look more natural than the wired models and give patients freer range of motion.

Graduate student Nir Even-Chen and postdoctoral fellow Dante Muratore, PhD, describe the team's approach in a Nature Biomedical Engineering paper.

Photo of a current neural implant, that uses wires to transmit information and receive power. New research suggests how to one day cut the wires. Image courtesy of Sergey Stavisky.

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