We live in a wireless world; wireless headphones, wireless speakers, wireless ear buds, wireless cable TV, wireless phones and printers. There are many obvious advantages to the wireless world we’ve all become accustom to, and many more wireless advances are surely around the corner… like our brains?
BrainGate, a research team supported by The National Institutes of Health (NIH) , which includes the National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital, just to name a few collaborators, are coming together to turn thoughts into action-wirelessly!
The investigational system, by the same name, BrainGate, uses an aspirin-sized tiny chip full of electrodes implanted on the cortex of the brain. Very early research indicates that neural signals associated with the intent to move a limb can be “decoded” by a computer and used to operate external devices. This technology gives hope to those with spinal cord injury, ALS, or brainstem stroke to gain “natural” control over advanced prosthetic limbs or provide those with paralysis easy control over assistive movement and communication devices.
This wireless brain sensor has been tested in a handful of animals by the research team lead by Brown University engineering professor, Arto Nurmikko. Research is headed towards preclinical research with in the next two years, as published by Fierce Medical Devices. This is the “fully implanted neural interface microsystem” and was implanted in a patient last year to help a paralytic woman make a robotic arm pick up and move objects.
However, could there be disadvantages to such a breakthrough?
It wasn’t long ago that the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding that FDA should expand its security measures in response to security threats that exist with certain wireless devices. After all, the unfortunate truth is- where technology exists- someone will try to hack it. This can leave patients at risk if dangerous vulnerabilities are left for hackers to find.
In spite of any kinks that may need to be ironed out, this remarkable breakthrough technology in medical device research may be attractive to other wireless shoppers. Gamers will be excited to implement this technology into interactive game systems. Movie producers will be waiting their turn to utilize this technology for their audiences.
Can you name other markets where this technology will be profitable? What about other disease areas or patient populations?
Photo Credit: Ars Electronica