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Feb 04, 2010

Hybrid nanoparticle-organic transistor mimics a synapse

Via MilTech

Nanotechnology researchers in France have developed a hybrid transistor called NOMFET (Nanoparticle Organic Memory Field-Effect Transistor) that shows the main behavior of a biological spiking synapse and can lead to a new generation of neuro-inspired computers, capable of responding in a manner similar to the nervous system. The organic device is made of a molecule called pentacene (an organic semiconductor) and gold nano-particles.

“Basically, we have demonstrated that electric charges flowing through a mixture of an organic semiconductor and metallic nanoparticles can behave the same way as neurotransmitters through a synaptic connection in the brain,” Dominique Vuillaume, a research director at CNRS and head of the Molecular Nanostructures & Devices group at the Institute for Electronics Microelectronics and Nanotechnology (IEMN) tells Nanowerk.

The study is published in the 22 January 2010 issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials, and can be accessed on Scribd.

Credit: Mil-Tech.com

Dec 08, 2009

Smart Sensors Help Improve Prostheses Personalization

Press release: Sensitive fitting process for leg prostheses

When fitting a leg prosthesis on a patient, clinicians typically have to use a gait laboratory to analyze patient's natural steps. The problem is that only one or two steps can be recorded by the lab, which provides too little information for a comprehensive fitting. Now researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST in Braunschweig, Germany have developed a sensor system that fits into a prosthesis for a more long term analysis.

The adapter measures 4 x 4 x 3 centimeters and sits at the ankle joint or above the knee. It measure the applied forces in three spatial dimensions and three torque moments. A miniature data logger near the sensor reads out the data and stores them. “This adapter makes it possible to continuously measure the load on a leg prosthesis during different routine activities throughout an entire day,” says IST team leader Dr. Ralf Bandorf. The adapter has eight measuring bridges, each with four strain gauges. These consist of a sputtered insulating layer covered with a metal film. When the patient walks, the layer stretches according to the type of movement performed, and this changes the electrical resistance of the metal film. The 32 strain gauges are placed at a number of different points and in different orientations, so the data provide a complete picture of the load acting on the prosthesis. Strain gauges used in sensor systems normally consist of adhesive films, but in this case the layers are sputtered directly onto the surface. This means they can also be applied to the complex geometries of the adapter, for instance its edges, which would be difficult in the case of adhesive films. Moreover, the film is insensitive to moisture and does not require the use of adhesives.

“The main challenge was to design a suitable geometry for the adapter,” says Dr. Ralf Bandorf. It mustn’t be too large, as there is only limited space available inside the prosthesis, but it has to be large enough to accommodate the strain gauges. The developers are already testing a prototype of the adapter on the first patients, and will present it at the Hannover Messe from April 20 to 24.

Oct 20, 2009

Tweaking Your Neurons

This interesting article, recently appeared in hplusmagazine, reviews the emerging trends in "neuroenhancement"




Jul 10, 2009

Neuroscience and the military: ethical implications of war neurotechnologies

Super soldiers equipped with neural implants, suits that contain biosensors, and thought scans of detainees may become reality sooner than you think.

In this video taken from the show "Conversations from Penn State", Jonathan Moreno discusses the ethical implications of the applications of neuroscience in modern warfare.

Moreno is David and Lyn Silfen professor and professor of medical ethics and the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania and was formerly the director of the Center for Ethics at the University of Virginia. He has served as senior staff member for two presidential commissions and is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.

Jul 06, 2009

Thought-controlled wheelchairs

Via Sentient Development

The BSI-Toyota Collaboration Center (BTCC) is developing a wheelchair that can be navigated in real-time with brain waves. The brain-controlled device can adjust itself to the characteristics of each individual user, thereby improving the efficiency with which it senses the driver's commands. That way, the driver is able to get the system to learn his/her commands (forward/right/left) quickly and efficiently; the system boasts an accuracy rate of 95%.

Feb 16, 2009

The development of personalised cognitive prosthetics

The development of personalised cognitive prosthetics.

Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2008;1:787-90

Authors: Nugent CD, Davies RJ, Donnelly MP, Hallberg J, Hariz M, Craig D, Meiland F, Moelaert F, Bengtsson JE, Savenstedt S, Mulvenna M, Droes RM

Persons suffering from mild dementia can benefit from a form of cognitive prosthetic which can be used to assist them with their day to day activities. Within our current work we are aiming to develop a successful user-validated cognitive prosthetic for persons with mild dementia. We have devised a three phased waterfall methodology to support our developments. Based on the evaluation of the first of these phases which involved the processes of user requirements gathering, prototype development and evaluation of in situ deployment of the technology we have been able to guide the technical development within the second phase of our work. Within this paper we provide an overview of the first phase of our methodology and demonstrate how we have used the results from this to guide the second phase of our work, especially with regards to the notion of personalisation.

Apr 08, 2008

The development of brain-machine interface neuroprosthetic devices

The development of brain-machine interface neuroprosthetic devices.

Neurotherapeutics. 2008 Jan;5(1):137-46

Authors: Patil PG, Turner DA

The development of brain-machine interface technology is a logical next step in the overall direction of neuroprosthetics. Many of the required technological advances that will be required for clinical translation of brain-machine interfaces are already under development, including a new generation of recording electrodes, the decoding and interpretation of signals underlying intention and planning, actuators for implementation of mental plans in virtual or real contexts, direct somatosensory feedback to the nervous system to refine actions, and training to encourage plasticity in neural circuits. Although pre-clinical studies in nonhuman primates demonstrate high efficacy in a realistic motor task with motor cortical recordings, there are many challenges in the clinical translation of even simple tasks and devices. Foremost among these challenges is the development of biocompatible electrodes capable of long-term, stable recording of brain activity and implantable amplifiers and signal processors that are sufficiently resistant to noise and artifact to faithfully transmit recorded signals to the external environment. Whether there is a suitable market for such new technology depends on its efficacy in restoring and enhancing neural function, its risks of implantation, and its long-term efficacy and usefulness. Now is a critical time in brain-machine interface development because most ongoing studies are science-based and noncommercial, allowing new approaches to be included in commercial schemes under development.

Mar 10, 2008

IEEE Spectrum Online reports on prosthethic arm development

Via SentientDevelopment

IEEE Spectrum Online has a special report on the current state of prosthethic arm development, including the latest on Dean Kamen's "Luke Arm" which is being funded by DARPA. There's also an amazing video showing the arm in action.

Dec 04, 2007

Prosthetic Limbs That Can Feel

Via KurzweilAI.net

Researchers at Northwestern University, in Chicago, have shown that transplanting the nerves from an amputated hand to the chest allows patients to feel hand sensation there.

The findings are the first step toward prosthetic arms with sensors on the fingers that will transfer tactile information from the device to the chest, making the wearer feel as though he or she has a real hand.

Full article here 

Oct 22, 2007

DARPA next generation prosthetic arm

The Boston Globe has an article by Scott Kirsner about the next generation of prosthetic limbs under development at DARPA


From the article: 

Without any covering to emulate human skin - what those in the prosthetics field call a "cosmesis" - the arm is distinctly robotic, all metal cylinders and dark gray carbon fiber. I held out my index finger, and Van Der Merwe manipulated the arm so that the index finger and thumb grabbed my fingertip and squeezed lightly. Suddenly, there was a buzzing sound. "That's a sensor in the fingers letting me know how hard I'm squeezing," Van Der Merwe explained. A few minutes later, when I shook hands, the grip was firm (if not warm), and Van Der Merwe chided me for not shaking more vigorously. I didn't want to break the hand and get on the Pentagon's bad side


Check the video 

Oct 17, 2007

Intraspinal stimulation for bladder voiding in cats

Neural engineers at Huntington Medical Research Institutes were able to use chronically implanted neuroprosthetic device inside the spinal cord. The device, consisting of an array of micrometer-sized spiny electrodes, was used to treat bladder paralysis in spinal cord-injured animals. The electrodes were located throughout the spinal cord tissue, and stimulation near the middle of the cord in the area called the dorsal gray commissure was most effective in inducing a bladder voiding reflex. Unlike the previously-used approaches of stimulating spinal roots or nerves which contain mixed fibers innervating multiple organs, the intraspinal stimulation was shown to be very specific and induced near-complete bladder emptying.

The article is coming out in the December issue of Journal of Neural Engineering and is available online at http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1741-2552/4/4/002/


Oct 10, 2007

Brain radiator

Via New Scientist Invention Blog 












Researchers at Yamaguchi University in Japan have applied for a patent describing a heat pipe installed over the brain that would allow it to be cooled and prevent epileptic fits in susceptible people.  

read full brain radiator patent

Oct 08, 2007

MIT develops new algorithm to help create prosthetic devices

MIT researchers have developed an algorithmic framework for building prosthetic devices that are controlled by neural signal detectors such as EEG.
Neural prosthetic devices represent an engineer's approach to treating paralysis and amputation. Here, electronics are used to monitor the neural signals that reflect an individual's intentions for the prosthesis or computer they are trying to use. Algorithms form the link between neural signals that are recorded, and the user's intentions that are decoded to drive the prosthetic device.

Over the past decade, efforts at prototyping these devices have divided along various boundaries related to brain regions, recording modalities, and applications. The MIT technique provides a common framework that underlies all these various efforts.

The research uses a method called graphical models that has been widely applied to problems in computer science like speech-to-text or automated video analysis. The graphical models used by the MIT team are diagrams composed of circles and arrows that represent how neural activity results from a person's intentions for the prosthetic device they are using.

The diagrams represent the mathematical relationship between the person's intentions and the neural manifestation of that intention, whether the intention is measured by an electoencephalography (EEG), intracranial electrode arrays or optical imaging. These signals could come from a number of brain regions, including cortical or subcortical structures.

Until now, researchers working on brain prosthetics have used different algorithms depending on what method they were using to measure brain activity. The new model is applicable no matter what measurement technique is used, according to Srinivasan. "We don't need to reinvent a new paradigm for each modality or brain region," he said.


Sep 27, 2007

Therapeutic potential of computer to cerebral cortex implantable devices

Therapeutic potential of computer to cerebral cortex implantable devices.

Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2007;97(Pt 2):529-35

Authors: Warwick K, Gasson MN, Spiers AJ

In this article, an overview of some of the latest developments in the field of cerebral cortex to computer interfacing (CCCI) is given. This is posed in the more general context of Brain-Computer Interfaces in order to assess advantages and disadvantages. The emphasis is clearly placed on practical studies that have been undertaken and reported on, as opposed to those speculated, simulated or proposed as future projects. Related areas are discussed briefly only in the context of their contribution to the studies being undertaken. The area of focus is notably the use of invasive implant technology, where a connection is made directly with the cerebral cortex and/or nervous system. Tests and experimentation which do not involve human subjects are invariably carried out a priori to indicate the eventual possibilities before human subjects are themselves involved. Some of the more pertinent animal studies from this area are discussed. The paper goes on to describe human experimentation, in which neural implants have linked the human nervous system bidirectionally with technology and the internet. A view is taken as to the prospects for the future for CCCI, in terms of its broad therapeutic role.

Sep 20, 2007

Nasdaq Stock Market Inc will launch Neurotech Index

Via Brain Waves

Nasdaq Stock Market Inc will launch NASDAQ NeuroInsights Neurotech Index on September 25 (ticker symbol: NERV).

The 32-member index includes companies whose core business is the development of drugs, devices and diagnostics to treat neurological disorders. The index has been created in conjunction with NeuroInsights, a research firm that monitors and analyzes trends in neurotechnology








Jul 14, 2007

New NIH Neurotech Funding Opportunities

Via Brain Waves


NIH announced new Federal funding to advance understanding of the nervous system, behavior or the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system diseases and disorders, through support of research, development, and enhancement of a wide range of neurotechnologies.

(SBIR PA-07-389

(STTR PA-07-390)

Apr 20, 2007

A virtual reality environment for designing and fitting neural prosthetic limbs

A virtual reality environment for designing and fitting neural prosthetic limbs.

IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng. 2007 Mar;15(1):9-15

Authors: Hauschild M, Davoodi R, Loeb GE

Building and testing novel prosthetic limbs and control algorithms for functional electrical stimulation (FES) is expensive and risky. Here, we describe a virtual reality environment (VRE) to facilitate and accelerate the development of novel systems. In the VRE, subjects/patients can operate a simulated limb to interact with virtual objects. Realistic models of all relevant musculoskeletal and mechatronic components allow the development of entire prosthetic systems in VR before introducing them to the patient. The system is used both by engineers as a development tool and by clinicians to fit prosthetic devices to patients.

Apr 15, 2007

Virtual Maps for the Blind

ScientificAmerican.com, April 4, 2007

Researchers in Greece have developed a new system that converts video into virtual, touchable maps for the blind.

The software tracks each structure and determines its shape and location. That data is used to create a three-dimensional grid of force fields for each structure.

Read the full article on Sciam

Mar 19, 2007

A Brain On/Off Switch

Re-blogged from Medgadget

Researchers at the Stanford Medical Center developed a procedure that allows scientists turn selected parts of the brain on and off. The tool may be used as a treatment option for people with different psychiatric problems.

From the MIT Technology Review report

While scientists know something about the chemical imbalances underlying depression, it's still unclear exactly which cells, or networks of cells, are responsible for it. In order to identify the circuits involved in such diseases, scientists must be able to turn neurons on and off. Standard methods, such as electrodes that activate neurons with jolts of electricity, are not precise enough for this task, so Deisseroth, postdoc Ed Boyden (now an assistant professor at MIT; see "Engineering the Brain"), and graduate student Feng Zhang developed a neural controller that can activate specific sets of neurons.

They adapted a protein from a green alga to act as an "on switch" that neurons can be genetically engineered to produce (see "Artificially Firing Neurons," TR35, September/October 2006). When the neuron is exposed to light, the protein triggers electrical activity within the cell that spreads to the next neuron in the circuit. Researchers can thus use light to activate certain neurons and look for specific responses--a twitch of a muscle, increased energy, or a wave of activity in a different part of the brain.

Deisseroth is using this genetic light switch to study the biological basis of depression. Working with a group of rats that show symptoms similar to those seen in depressed humans, researchers in his lab have inserted the switch into neurons in different brain areas implicated in depression. They then use an optical fiber to shine light onto those cells, looking for activity patterns that alleviate the symptoms. Deisseroth says the findings should help scientists develop better antidepressants: if they know exactly which cells to target, they can look for molecules or delivery systems that affect only those cells. "Prozac goes to all the circuits in the brain, rather than just the relevant ones," he says. "That's part of the reason it has so many side effects."


Feb 25, 2007

Brain radio

Via KurzweilAI.net 

Researchers at Medtronic are developing an implantable device designed to electrically stimulate areas of the brain to control diseases such as Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and depression.

From EEtimes

"We want to measure the average activity of thousands of brain cells," said Tim Denison, a senior principal engineer at Medtronic Neurological Technologies, who presented the ISSCC paper. "Essentially we want to build a brain radio that we can tune to the particular frequencies of the patient," he added.

Read the full story