Scientists invent smartphone-controlled device to study the brain

August 9, 2019

Conventional methods used by neuroscientists to study brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or depression usually involve rigid physical connections to deliver drugs. However, these routinely cause lesions in soft brain tissue over time and are not suitable for long-term implantation.

To achieve continuous drug delivery, scientists from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and US’s University of Washington (UW) have invented a neural device with a replaceable drug cartridge to study the brain. The device, controlled with a simple user interface on a smartphone, uses Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and powerful Bluetooth low-energy to safely target specific neurons for prolonged periods, as it also mitigates adverse soft tissue response.

In mice, the drug cartridges were assembled into a miniature brain implant for unlimited drug dosage and light delivery. With the wireless neural device, neuroscientists could set up fully automated animal studies with conditional triggering of light and/or drug delivery, all without coming into the lab.

Jae-Woong Jeong, a KAIST professor of engineering, thinks of further developing this revolutionary technology to make a human-sized brain implant for clinical applications.

Michael Bruchas, a professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at UW School of Medicine, said the advanced electronics design and powerful micro/nanoscale engineering “allows better dissection of the neural circuit basis of behaviour and how its neuromodulators tune behaviour in various ways” and adds that the technology could apply to new therapeutics for pain, addiction, and emotional disorders.


Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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