/Tiny “neurograins” could one day stimulate brain activity

Tiny “neurograins” could one day stimulate brain activity

Summary: A new concept for a future brain-computer interface system uses a coordinated network of “neurograins,” independent, wireless microscale sensors, each about the size of a grain of salt, to record and stimulate brain activity.

Original author and publication date: Kevin Stacey Brown – August 13, 2021

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: The deadline says “one day”. It means “very soon”

From the article:

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are emerging assistive devices that may one day help people with brain or spinal injuries to move or communicate. BCI systems depend on implantable sensors that record electrical signals in the brain and use those signals to drive external devices like computers or robotic prosthetics.

Most current BCI systems use one or two sensors to sample up to a few hundred neurons, but neuroscientists are interested in systems that are able to gather data from much larger groups of brain cells.

The new neurograins independently record the electrical pulses made by firing neurons and send the signals wirelessly to a central hub, which coordinates and processes the signals.

In a study in Nature Electronics, the researchers demonstrated the use of nearly 50 such autonomous neurograins to record neural activity in a rodent.

The results, they say, are a step toward a system that could one day enable the recording of brain signals in unprecedented detail, leading to new insights into how the brain works and new therapies for people with brain or spinal injuries.

“One of the big challenges in the field of brain-computer interfaces is engineering ways of probing as many points in the brain as possible,” says senior author Arto Nurmikko, a professor in Brown University’s School of Engineering. “Up to now, most BCIs have been monolithic devices—a bit like little beds of needles. Our team’s idea was to break up that monolith into tiny sensors that could be distributed across the cerebral cortex. That’s what we’ve been able to demonstrate here.”

The team began the work of developing the system about four years ago. The challenge was two-fold, says Nurmikko, who is affiliated with Brown’s Carney Institute for Brain Science.

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