New Hope Springs with Smart Chip that Transmits Data Wirelessly from Brain

In what could be a breakthrough in combating Parkinson’s disease, scientists have been successful in developing a smart chip that carries the capability to pair up with neural implants. Once paired, the smart chip can then wirelessly transmit brain signals to an external receiver. Experts see much potential in this technology to also enable paraplegics to control their prosthetic limbs.

The current generation of neural implants used for this purpose are part of a rather cumbersome and inconvenient system. Wires connect the neural implants to a device or computer outside of the body that receives and decodes brain signals. Moreover, the permanent openings in the skull that connect the brain and the external devices up the risk of infections several times over.

This is poised to change drastically with the new implantable chip developed by the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Transmission of data from the brain to external devices can now be conducted wirelessly, and that too, without compromising the level of accuracy.

Tests involving the chip have already been conducted on animals, a researcher from the NTU told media persons this week. The research involved testing the efficacy of the chip using data taken from animal models. The tests showed that the chip could decode signals from the hand and fingers with an accuracy of 95%. This paves the way for a more compact and hassle-free medical wearable device that patients suffering from Parkinson’s and similar neural disorders can benefit from.

The chip, being more efficient than the present generation of processing chips, could also find application in other medical devices such as ECG monitoring systems. Powered by smaller and more compact batteries, these devices will become more portable and easy to use.

However, the team was faced with one massive challenge – wireless transmission of data means more power to run the chip. This would mean designing bigger batteries to be implanted in the brain or a recharge at frequent intervals. To overcome both these obstacles, the scientists decided to cut down on the volume of data transmitted. The chip, which in itself is extremely high on power efficiency, will be able to decode and analyze thousands of signals coming from the brain through the neural implants. It will compress these signals to reduce the volume of data and, consequently, the amount of battery power consumed.

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