Scientists at Brown University in the United States have created tiny microchips designed to be placed on the surface of the brain – or even inside its tissue – in order to collect an unprecedented amount of neural data, Wired reports.
Researchers have developed a new brain implant. It consists of dozens of silicon microchips that read brain activity and transmit this data to a computer. Scientists have called them “neurogranules” or neurograins. According to a recent paper on the work, published in the journal Nature Electronics, they are distributed across the entire surface of the brain and collect neural signals from more areas than other brain implants.
There is enough microelectronics in each such “grain”.
Work on neurobeads began four years ago, with researchers from the University of California, San Diego and Qualcomm.
In addition to recording brain activity, neurobeads can also stimulate nerve cells with small electrical impulses. This technology has the potential to help treat brain diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Also, such chips are useful in restoring brain functions that have been lost due to trauma. So far, scientists have tested “neurogranules” only in rodents.
During the experiment, scientists implanted 48 chips in the rat’s cerebral cortex to cover most of the motor and sensory areas. A thin patch the size of a thumbprint is attached to the head. It acts as an external communication node, receiving signals from the chips, processing and charging them wirelessly.
The researchers tested the system while the animal was under anesthesia. They found that the chips recorded the spontaneous brain activity of a rat that was unconscious at the time.
However, there was one catch: the signal quality was not as good as the commercial ICs used in existing brain-computer interfaces. The researchers believe that if they can improve the quality of signal output, it will allow exploration of broader areas of the brain, and the prototype will lay the foundation for research in humans.