June 20, 2011

Brain Implant: Thoughts Control Movement

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new brain implant may one day be used to reactivate paralyzed limbs. Researchers at the University of Michigan developed the brain implant, which is called the BioBolt. It uses the body's skin like a conductor to wirelessly transmit the brain's neural signals to control a computer. According to the researchers, this brain implant is minimally invasive and low power, unlike other neural interface technologies that establish a connection from the brain to an external device.

Currently, the skull must remain open while neural implants are in the head, which makes using them in a patient's daily life unrealistic. Researchers say BioBolt does not penetrate the cortex and is completely covered by the skin, which reduces the risk of infection.

The BioBolt is about the circumference of a dime, and it looks like a bolt. A thumbnail-sized film of microcircuits attaches to the bottom. The BioBolt is implanted in the skull beneath the skin. The film of microcircuits sits on the brain. The microcircuits act as microphones to 'listen' to the pattern of firing neurons and associate them with a specific command from the brain. Those signals are amplified, filtered, and then converted to digital signals and transmitted through the skin to a computer.

The researchers believe this device may be a step toward allowing a paralyzed person beubg able to "think" a movement. "The ultimate goal is to be able to reactivate paralyzed limbs," by picking the neural signals from the brain cortex and transmitting those signals directly to muscles, according to Kensall Wise, who is the founding director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems (WIMS ERC). That technology is years away, the researchers say.

They also say this device shows promise for controlling epilepsy and diagnosing certain diseases like Parkinson's.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, June, 2011