This Implantable Brain Chip Can Make Immobile People Move Again!

Khryss | Published 2017-02-20 18:39
Remember my recent prosthetic limb article where I've explained how this new prosthesis allows movement through spinal nerve signals? If you liked that, then you might want to hear about this- a recent technology has been created and improved to aid immobility or better! Losing mobility in one’s limb is usually caused by spinal cord injuries wherein the neural signal processing gets damaged. When this happens, the brain, nonetheless, can still send electoral impulses. Along the way, these signals are unfortunately lost due to the mentioned spinal damage, hindering the reception of such limbs. However, a new technology has been created by the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE)—a collaboration of San Diego State University with the University of Washington (UW) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). An implantable brain chip can now record these neural electrical signals and transmit them to the limb while bypassing the damage, thus, restoring movement. This technology called a brain-computer interface uses electrodes (tiny pieces of material that read signals from brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters) to transmit such recorded signals. This can help those immobile people and also give life to another future prosthetic limb! Moreover, according to the study’s lead investigators, Sam Kassegne, deputy director for the CSNE at SDSU and a professor in the mechanical engineering department, this new brain-computer interface is more durable, does last longer in the body and transmits clearer, stronger signals. Together with his team, Kassegne developed electrodes made out of a new material, glassy carbon, which is about 10 times smoother than granular thin-film platinum (usual material available in the market). What’s more? They’re recording neural signals not just along the brain’s cortical surface but from inside the brain as well. The difference is “If you record from deeper in the brain, you can record from single neurons,” says Elisa Castagnola, one of the researchers. “On the surface, you can record from clusters. This combination gives you a better understanding of the complex nature of brain signaling.” This study gives hope in restoring motor function to people with nervous system injuries. What’s impossible before might soon be possible today.
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