The idea of an electronic device implanted in the brain tends to evoke spooky scenarios a la "Total Recall." But if a team of international scientists has its way, brain implants will one day be viewed as a viable and commonplace therapy for conditions like Parkinson's disease, depression, and even age-related loss of brain elasticity.
The scientists are working on a biomimetic chip called the Rehabilitation Nano Chip (ReNaChip) that could be used to wire computer applications and sensors to the brain, building off of current procedures to make those approaches more precise.
The chip itself wouldn't be implanted in the brain; instead, it would be hooked up to tiny electrodes that provide precisely controlled stimulation to diseased areas.
An existing procedure called deep brain stimulation (DBS) is already used to treat neurological symptoms, most commonly Parkinson's effects such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems.
It involves a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator that delivers electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause Parkinson's symptoms.
However, the ReNaChip team says over-stimulation of the brain is a serious concern in current procedures, as it can cause patients to lose some therapeutic benefits over time. That's where their work comes in. … Read more