In the United States, researchers at Brown University are looking for new ways to study the human brain. For this endeavor, scientists have developed tiny microchips—the size of a grain of salt—designed to be spread across the surface of the brain. For now, the technology is validated in animal research, more specifically, in rodents.
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Neurosensors have been dubbed “neurograins”, in an allusion to the size of the new technology. This reduced size is necessary because the goal is for the chips to be spread throughout the tissue, where they can record brain activity. That way they won’t be able to take up much space. An article about the invention has even been published in the scientific journal Nature Electronics.
Research in the US is looking for new ways to understand the human brain, through tiny chips and rodents (Image: Reproduction /Cookelma/Envato Elements)
“Each grain has microelectronics enough so that, when embedded in the neural tissue, I can ‘hear’ the neuronal activity on the one hand and then also transmit it as a small radio to the outside world”, explains Arto Nurmikko, neuroengineer at the North American university and lead author of the study.
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Chips have already been installed in the brain of rodents
For now, the team of scientists has implemented the “neurograins” in rodents, but hopes to do the same in humans soon. In the experiment with the animal model, chips were installed in the cerebral cortex of a rat while it was under the effect of anesthesia.
Neurosensors are installed in the brain of rats (Image: Reproduction/Riccardo ragione/Unsplash)
Using the sensors, it was possible to record the animal’s cortical activity, but the researchers found that the signal quality was not as good as the chips used in most brain-machine interfaces existing. Thus, there is a research front aimed at improving, specifically, the device. In parallel, animal testing follows.
The next step is to test the chips on rodents that are awake and potentially moving. Next, the studies will follow the brain activities of monkeys. If everything goes as expected, the technology will be validated in humans and science will take an important step in understanding how the mind works.
According to Nurmikko, the understanding today is of that 770 chips can be implanted in the human brain, when the tests are considered safe. At this point, the findings may help to understand how serious neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, paralysis or epilepsy happen. Most likely, new treatments will emerge from these insights484443.
To access the scientific article about the chips, click here.
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