A team of scientists in Korea and the United States have published in Nature Biomedical Engineering the details of a device that can control neuronal circuits using a small brain implant controlled by a smartphone.
The researchers argue that the device could facilitate diagnoses of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, addiction, depression and pain.
This technology significantly outshines the conventional methods used by neuroscientists, which generally involve rigid metal tubes and optical fibers.
Using replaceable drug cartridges and a powerful low-energy bluetooth, specific neurons can be attacked using medications and light for prolonged periods, as the lead author RQaza aza, a researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder:
The wireless neuronal device allows a chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before.
The first step in delivering drugs wirelessly was to solve the problem of easily running out of these drugs. In the study, in which rarones were used, an ultra-thin probe (the thickness of a human hair) was assembled consisting of microfluidic microchannels and small LEDs (smaller than a grain of salt), for unlimited doses of medications and light delivery.
This global collaborative effort between engineers and neuroscientists for a period of three consecutive years and dozens of design iterations led to the successful validation of this powerful brain implant. In addition, the implant can be controlled inside or outside the laboratory. with an elegant and simple user interface on a smartphone, neuroscientists can easily activate any specific combination or precise sequencing of light and medication delivery.
This breakthrough too will allow complex pharmacological studies to develop new therapies for pain, addiction and emotional disorders: using these wireless neural devices, researchers could also easily set up fully automated animal studies where the behavior of one animal could positively or negatively affect the behavior in other animals through conditional activation of the delivery of light and / or drugs.