Brown University creates first wireless, implanted brain-computer interface
Researchers at Brown University have succeeded in creating the first wireless, implantable, rechargeable, long-term brain-computer interface. The wireless BCIs have been implanted in pigs and monkeys for over 13 months without issue, and human subjects are next. […]
Brown’s wireless BCI, fashioned out of hermetically sealed titanium, looks a lot like a pacemaker. Inside there’s a li-ion battery, an inductive (wireless) charging loop, a chip that digitizes the signals from your brain, and an antenna for transmitting those neural spikes to a nearby computer. The BCI is connected to a small chip with 100 electrodes protruding from it, which, in this study, was embedded in the somatosensory cortex or motor cortex. These 100 electrodes produce a lot of data, which the BCI transmits at 24Mbps over the 3.2 and 3.8GHz bands to a receiver that is one meter away. The BCI’s battery takes two hours to charge via wireless inductive charging, and then has enough juice to last for six hours of use. […] Another important factor is that the researchers were able to extract high-quality, “rich” neural signals from the wireless implant — a good indicator that it will also help human neuroscience, if and when the device is approved.
Moving forward, the wireless BCI is very much a part of BrainGate — the Brown University research group that’s tasked with bringing these neurological technologies to humans. So far, the pinnacle of BrainGate’s work is a robotic arm controlled by a tethered BCI, which paralyzed patients can use to feed themselves. While the wireless BCI isn’t approve for human use (and there’s no indication that they’re seeking approval yet), it was designed specifically so that it should be safe for human use.
The Brown researchers now intend to develop a different version of the device to help them study the motor cortex of an animal with Parkinson’s disease. They are also working on reducing the device’s size, improving its safety and reliability, and increasing the amount of data it can transmit — for the eventual goal of equipping those with movement disabilities, or elective transhumanists, with a wireless brain-computer interface.