Researchers investigate next-gen brain-computer interface systems

Technology

For neurological disorders, brain-computer interfaces are emerging as assistive devices that one day may help individuals to move or communicate. Brain-computer interface systems depend on implantable sensors that register electrical signals in the brain and the signals are then used to drive externally connected devices such as robotic prosthetics or computers.

Meanwhile, current BCI systems common ones use one or two sensors for sampling a few hundred neurons. However, neuroscientists are striving to create systems that are able to collect data from much larger group of brain cells.

In a bid to address this, a research team has undertaken a key step for the concept of new BCI system. The new system is designed to employ a coordinated network of wireless, independent microscale neural sensors – each of which is the size of a grain of salt – to register and stimulate brain activity.

Dubbed ‘neurograins’ the neurosensors independently register the electrical pulses created by firing neurons and the signal sent wirelessly to a central hub. Importantly, the central hub coordinates and processes the signals.

A recent publication in Nature Electronics demonstrates the use of almost 50 such autonomous neurograins to register neural activity in rodents.

The results is a step toward a system that could enable the register of brain signals in unprecedented details one day. This could lead to new insights into the functioning of the brain and new therapies for people with spinal or brain injuries.

In fact, to engineer ways for probing as many points of the brain as possible is one of the key challenges in brain-computer interface science.

Until so far, BCI devices have mostly been monolithic – something like little beds of needles.

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