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Smart chip could lead to safer, wireless brain implants

Thu 11 Feb 2016

Smart chip NTU

A team of scientists has developed a tiny smart chip capable of attaching to neural implants, and facilitating the wireless transmission of brain signals.

Neural implants embedded in the brain can alleviate some of the symptoms of diseases such as Parkinson’s, as well as supporting the movement of prosthetic limbs. However, their use has been restricted due to the need to connect wires to external devices outside of the body. Not only are these wires uncomfortable and an irritation for patients, the openings which allow the wires to reach the brain increase the risk of infection.

The new chip, developed by engineers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, can now allow for the efficient transmission of brain data without the need for wires.

Lead researcher Arindam Basu, assistant professor at the School of Engineering and Electronic Engineering, explained that his team had tested the chip on brain data recorded from animal models, and had achieved 95% accuracy in decoding brain signals sent to hands and fingers.

Low power smart chip

“What we have developed is a very versatile smart chip that can process data, analyse patterns and spot the difference,” said Basu. “It is about a hundred times more efficient than current processing chips on the market. It will lead to more compact medical wearable devices, such as portable ECG monitoring devices and neural implants, since we no longer need large batteries to power them,” he added.

The new chip, which measures 5mm by 5mm, has been designed to analyse data patterns and pick out any abnormal activity. The technology avoids the need for bigger batteries or frequent recharging required by traditional chips transmitting enormous amounts data. Instead the chip can decode thousands of signals before compressing the results and sending them to an external receiver.

This compression technique would also have beneficial implications for the Internet of Things – data can be processed before sending the important details in a filtered package, rather than a whole data stream.


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