A new, game-changing technology can put electronics directly into the brain


Injected directly into the brain brain without invasive surgery and the immune system is less likely to reject. (Lieber Research Group, Harvard University)

Injected directly into the brain brain without invasive surgery and the immune system is less likely to reject. (Lieber Research Group, Harvard University)

Last May, a 34-year-old paralyzed man was able to drink from a cup unaided using a robotic arm. Other surgeries have allowed the deaf to hear, the blind to see, and have staved off the debilitating symptoms of neurological illnesses like Parkinson’s.

All of these technologies are made possible by brain implants: electrical devices inserted into or attached to the brain. These implants have sensors or electrodes that can monitor activity, block or electrically stimulate processes in the neural network.

But implants right now require invasive surgery, and are often made of steel or other metals that cause scarring. Brain implant technology is hampered by how long implants can stay in the brain without causing damage or losing functionality.

A game-changing implant

Now a tiny new brain implant makes two big strides in this technology: It can be injected directly into the brain from a syringe, minimizing damage to brain tissue and can be applied without invasive surgery.

Not only that, but the flexible mesh imitates the interconnecting structure of the neural network and the softness of brain tissue, and is made of materials that the immune system is less likely to reject, so it seems to create less scarring in the brain when it has been inserted.

The researchers described the innovation in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on June 8. They were able to inject the mesh into the brains of anesthetized mice through a tiny hole in the skull and record brain activity with electrodes and sensors on the mesh.

How it works

The incredibly small mesh implant has “very fine metal lines” of circuitry embedded, with electrodes and sensors mounted at the intersections of the wires. By curling the flexible implant, the researchers were able to fit a 1.5 centimeter wide square of mesh up into a syringe with an opening less than half a millimeter wide.

Once injected into the brain, the mesh unfolds to about 80% of its original shape without loss of function. The external wires of the mesh can then be plugged to a computer to monitor and stimulate individual neurons.

The mesh implant unfurls in the brain after injection.. Sscreen shot 2015-06-08 at 12.46.41 pm. (Lieber Research Group, Harvard University).

The mesh implant unfurls in the brain after injection.. Sscreen shot 2015-06-08 at 12.46.41 pm. (Lieber Research Group, Harvard University).

Lieber said the secret to the immune system’s acceptance of the implant is because of its flexible and open structure. Up to 95% of the mesh is open space, allowing individual neurons to communicate with adjacent neurons uninterrupted.

The future of brain implants

Lieber hopes that this mesh might someday be used in humans to treat neurological illness or brain damage caused by strokes, but said the next step is to test it for a longer period of time, maybe up to a year.

If the implants are successful they would be a better option for people who get long-term implants to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.

This treatment, called deep brain stimulation, delivers stimulation from implants to regulate the electrical misfirings in the brain that cause these involuntary movements. But like many implants, the probes used in deep brain stimulation can trigger the development of scar tissues.

Developing long-term implants that don’t get rejected by the immune system could pave the way to using the technology for enhancement, rather than just treatment.

This type of enhancement might be common in just a few more years. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is already working on brain implants that could restore memories and treat brain damage. Having a brain implant to remember facts would greatly enhance our abilities to take tests and perform everyday work.

That might be possible in the future, when tiny brain implants can give us abilities that extend beyond our biological limits. Ray Kurzweil believes we’ll able to access the internet with our minds using DNA nanobots in just 15 short years.

As brain implants shrink and become safer, that might not be such a crazy prediction.

 

 

Adapted from an article by GUIA DEL PRADO from Business Insider @

http://www.businessinsider.com/technology-inject-electronics-into-brain-2015-6

 

Advertisements

About Georges Abi-Aad

CEO, electronic engineer with MBA in marketing. Multicultural; French citizen born in Lebanon working in the Middle East and fluent in French, English and Arabic. I have more than 30 years of proven experience in the Middle East with European know how. I am good in reorganization and in Global strategic management business. I am a dependable leader with an open approach in working with people, forging a strong team of professionals dedicated to the Company and its clientele. Perseverance is my key word. Married to Carole and having 2 children: Joy-Joelle and Antoine (Joyante!).
This entry was posted in Electronics, Engineering, How it works, science, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s