Direct brain control from a smartphone is already real

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — A team of scientists from Korea and the United States has invented a device that can manipulate neural chains using a tiny brain implant controlled by a smartphone. Researchers say the device will speed up the discovery of the basics of neuropsychiatric diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, drug addiction, depression, and fibromyalgia.

Using replaceable drug cartridges and powerful, low-power Bluetooth, researchers can target targeted neurons with drugs and light for extended periods of time.

“A wireless neural device provides continuous chemical and optical neuromodulation; So far there has been nothing similar in science, ”said Raza Kazi, lead author of the study, a specialist at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Kazi explained that this technology far surpasses the traditional methods used by neuroscientists, who typically use rigid metal tubes and optical fibers to deliver drugs and light. In addition to restricting the subject’s movements due to attachment to bulky equipment, the relatively rigid structure of such implants over time causes damage to the soft tissues of the brain.

Although technologies had already been implemented to mitigate injuries through the use of soft probes and wireless platforms, the problem remained of the inability to deliver drugs for extended periods of time.

To achieve continuous wireless drug delivery, researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Washington in Seattle have invented their neural device with a replaceable cartridge, which allows neuroscientists to study the same brain circuits for several months, without worrying that the drug will end .

These plug-n-play drug cartridges are inserted into a brain implant with a soft and ultra-thin probe (thick as a human hair), which consists of microfluidic channels and tiny LEDs (smaller than a grain of salt), for painless delivery of unlimited doses of drugs.

In experiments on mice, neuroscientists were able to launch any combination or sequence of delivery of light and drugs to a target animal without the need for a physical presence in the laboratory, while managing only using an elegant and simple interface on a smartphone.

Using wireless neural devices, researchers can easily organize fully automated animal experiments, where the motor activity of one animal, carried out under the influence of neuropharmacology in vivo and optogenetic stimulation, will affect the behavior of other animals.

“This revolutionary device is the fruit of advanced electronic design and powerful micro- and nanoscale engineering,” said Jae-Woon Jeong, professor of electrical engineering at KAIST. “We are interested in the further development of this technology to create a brain implant for clinical applications.”

Michael Brujas, professor of anesthesiology, pain medicine and pharmacology at Washington State Medical University, said: “This technology allows us to better analyze the basics of the nervous system and how specific neuromodulators in the brain adjust behavior differently.”

“We also plan to use this device for comprehensive pharmacological research with the goal of developing new drugs for pain, dependence and emotional disorders.”

Researchers from the Jung group at KAIST are developing soft electronics for wearable and implantable devices, and neuroscientists from Bruchas’s laboratory at Washington University are studying brain circuits that control stress, depression, addiction, pain, and other neuropsychiatric disorders. The global collaborative efforts of engineers and neuroscientists over the years have led to the successful testing of this powerful brain implant in free-moving mice.


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