Brown University develops the first wireless brain chip

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Fred Field for Brown University
Engineers Arto Nurmikko and Ming Yin examine their prototype wireless broadband neural sensing device.

A couple weeks ago, we covered a combination nightmare situation with monkeys that can control robot arms. If you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, Brown University researchers have figured out a way to let monkeys control computers wirelessly.


Researchers at Brown University have created the world’s first wireless brain-computer interfaces or computer control chips that can be applied directly to your brain. These chip works by essentially broadcasting brain activity as a wireless broadband signal, similar to how a cellphone works.

David Borton, Ming Yin, Juan Aceros and Arto Nurmikko/Journal of Neural Engineering
Four neural interfaces were implanted in a total of two Yorkshire pigs (a) and two rhesus macaque non-human primates (b).

The scientists tested a series of these 2.2-inch devices by implanting them into the heads of three pigs and three rhesus monkeys for nearly 16 months. The rechargeable wireless brain sensor proved itself by relaying real-time activity from 100 neurons for up to six hours.

Up until now, most of the brain-computer interfaces we’ve seen have lived just beneath the patient’s skin and require some sort of wired connection. These sort of interface not only look unnatural but they also tie you down to a machine. With a wireless setup, you can move about as you normally would.

The Brown team is working to further miniaturize the device while bumping up the neural data transmission rate beyond 24 Mbps. The team is also working to improve the device’s safety and reliability so that it can someday be used for clinical applications in people with movement disabilities.

[Brown University via The Verge]

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This story, "Brown University develops the first wireless brain chip" was originally published by TechHive.

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