Scientists unveil first wireless device to be implanted in brains

Research scientists at Brown University have developed a wireless device they hope can one day be implanted in human brains.

In previous versions of the technology — created by BrainGate, a research team of American neuroscientists from Brown University and Stanford University — a wire connected the implanted device to a computer that recorded neural data.

Hailed as the first of its kind, the wireless device allows neuroscientists to record and analyze neural data from natural behaviors that previous versions of the technology were unable to study.

“This was conceived very much in concert with the larger BrainGate team, including neurosurgeons and neurologists giving us advice as to what were appropriate strategies for eventual clinical applications,” said Brown University professor of engineering Arto Nurmikko, the project’s overseer.

The device was first described in a recent paper in Journal of Neural Engineering, published on Feb. 21. The paper’s lead author, David Borton, noted that the device has already proven to work wirelessly for 12 months while implanted in six different animals: three pigs and three rhesus monkeys.

While the device is not yet approved for human use, it was created with that intention in mind.

Borton, now a researcher at the Eco Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL), is now leading a collaboration between EPFL and Brown to use the device to study an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers are also working on reducing the device’s size and affordability.

The device is being presented this week in Houston by Nurimikko at the 2013 International Conference on Clinical Brain-Machine Interface systems.

The research for the project was funded by several grants through the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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