Menu
Injectable electronics could form basis for brain implants

Injectable electronics could form basis for brain implants

An international team has recorded and monitored mouse brain cells with mesh electronics inserted via a syringe

If you've ever wondered whether wearable computers might one day turn into computers that are implanted in our brains, research at Harvard University suggests it's a possibility.

Flexible electronics can be injected directly into brain tissue, allowing for brain cells to be directly monitored and stimulated, according to the researchers from Harvard and China's National Center for Nanoscience and Technology.

The technology could open up new applications in medicine and brain-machine interfaces, which can read thoughts and act upon the external world, such as controlling a wheelchair by thought alone.

Harvard chemist Charles Lieber and collaborators worked with tiny, flexible mesh structures that are made of conductive polymer strands and embedded with transistors and electrodes. The mesh was rolled up, inserted in a syringe measuring 100 micrometers in diameter, and injected into the brain tissue of mice, where it unfurled.

Reporting in a study in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers said the mesh is mostly porous and can expand to fill biological cavities. It integrated with the brain tissue and the mice did not show significant signs of immune reaction to the material after five weeks.

Extremely thin electrical wires connected to the mesh were connected to external computers so that brain cells in the mice could be recorded and stimulated. But the researchers want to refine the design to make it wireless.

"In the future, our new approach and results could be extended in several directions, including the incorporation of multifunctional electronic devices and/or wireless interfaces to further increase the complexity of the injected electronics," they wrote.

The technology could potentially be developed to treat brain damage from stroke and Parkinson's disease, Lieber said in a Nature.com news article.

Researchers across many fields have been working on ways to link brain cells to computers, with engineers at Intel speculating that chips implanted in brains will be used to control computers by 2020.

Last month, researchers at the California Institute of Technology reported that they were able to implant electrodes in the brain of a quadriplegic man so that he could move a robotic arm in a fluid, smooth motion. He was able to shake hands and play rock, paper, scissors with the mechanical appendage.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.


Follow Us

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intelpopular scienceroboticsComponentsharvard universityCalifornia Institute of Technology

Featured

Slideshows

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ

Partners are actively building out security practices and services to match, yet remain challenged by a lack of guidance in the market. This exclusive Reseller News Roundtable - in association with Sophos - assessed the making of an MSSP, outlining the blueprint for growth and how partners can differentiate in New Zealand.

The making of an MSSP: a blueprint for growth in NZ
Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018

The leading players of the New Zealand channel came together to celebrate a year of achievement at the inaugural Reseller News Platinum Club lunch in Auckland. Following the Reseller News Innovation Awards, Platinum Club provides a platform to showcase the top performing partners and start-ups of the past 12 months, with more than ​​50 organisations in the spotlight.​​​

Reseller News Platinum Club celebrates leading partners in 2018
Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ

HP has honoured its leading partners in New Zealand during 2018, following 12 months of growth through the local channel. Unveiled during the fourth running of the ceremony in Auckland, the awards recognise and celebrate excellence, growth, consistency and engagement of standout Kiwi partners.

Meet the top performing HP partners in NZ
Show Comments