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Oct 17, 2010

Growing neurons on silicon chips

Via Robots.net

Researchers at University of Calgary have developed neurochips capable of capable of interfacing to and sensing activity of biological neurons in very high resolution. The new chips are automated so it's now easy to connect multiple brain cells eliminating the years of training it once required. While researchers say this technology could be used for new diagnostic methods and treatments for a variety of neuro-degenerative diseases, this advancement could ultimately lead to the use of biological neurons in the central or sub-processing units of computers and automated machinery.



Jul 30, 2010

Sniff-activated sensor may return active lifestyles to paralyzed and disabled

Disabled persons, quadriplegics and others suffering from paralysis may be able to regain movement with a sniff-activated sensor, according to a study by Israeli researchers.

The technology works by translating changes in nasal air pressure into electrical signals that are passed to a computer. Patients can sniff in certain patterns to select letters or numbers to compose text, or on the computer, to control the mouse. For getting around, sniffing controls the direction of the wheelchair, Bloomberg reports.

Quadriplegic patients were able to use the device to navigate wheelchairs as well as healthy people. Two participants who were completely paralyzed but with intact mental function used the technology to communicate by choosing letters on a computer screen to write. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Full Story

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.

Dec 16, 2007

Digital cameras for dementia patients

Via Medgadget


Microsoft researchers are developing a wearable digital camera that can be used to record the day's activities of th user. SenseCam was originally developed as a memory aid for healthy people, but it is now in clinical testing for those with memory impairment, such as dementia.


SenseCam is worn around the neck and automatically takes a wide-angle, low-resolution photograph every 30 seconds. It contains an accelerometer to stabilize the image and reduce blurriness, and it can be configured to take pictures in response to changes in movement, temperature, or lighting. "Because it has a wide-angle lens, you don't have to point it at anything--it just happens to capture pretty much everything that the wearer can see," says Steve Hodges, the manager of the Sensor and Devices Group at Microsoft Research, U.K.

An entire day's events can be captured digitally on a memory card and downloaded onto a PC for subsequent viewing. Using specially designed software, the Microsoft researchers can convert the pictures into a short movie that displays the images at up to 10 frames per second, allowing a day's events to be viewed in a few minutes.

SenseCam was originally developed as a memory aid for healthy people, but it is now in clinical testing for those with memory impairment, such as dementia. Narinder Kapur, head of the Neuropsychology Department at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, U.K., and leader of the eight-patient study, recently published an initial case report of one patient in the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation. Kapur and his colleagues found that Mrs. B could remember most nontrivial events after she had spent around one hour reviewing the SenseCam images with her husband every two days for a two-week period.




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 

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 




Feb 17, 2007

Center for Neurotechnology Studies Launched at Potomac Institute for Policy Studies

from Brainwaves

In Neuropolicy



The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies has announced the launch of The Center for Neurotechnology Studies (CNS) which intends on providing neutral, in-depth analysis of matters at the intersection of neuroscience and technology—neurotechnology—and public policy. The Center will anticipate ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) associated with emerging neurotechnology, and shepherd constructive discourse on these issues. It will provide a forum for reasoned consideration of these subjects both by experts and the public.


 Read the full post on Brainwaves blog




Jan 15, 2007

The Center for Neurotechnology Studies

From Brain-waves 

The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies has announced the launch of The Center for Neurotechnology Studies (CNS) which intends on providing neutral, in-depth analysis of matters at the intersection of neuroscience and technology, neurotechnology. and public policy...


Read the full post

Dec 23, 2006

FDA Approves Cool-Cap

Via BrainBlog

FDA Approves Novel Device That Prevents or Reduces Brain Damage in Infants (FDA press release)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved a first-of-a-kind medical device for the treatment of babies born with moderate to severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a potentially fatal injury to the brain caused by low levels of oxygen.  The Olympic Cool-Cap system is designed to prevent or reduce damage to the brains of these patients by keeping the head cool while the body is maintained at a slightly below-normal temperature.  The Cool-Cap is manufactured by Olympic Medical Corporation, a subsidiary of Natus Medical Incorporated of San Carlos, Calif.

Read the full PR

Dec 14, 2006

FDA to consider anti-depressant TMS

Via Medgadget 

According to the Associated Press, the FDA is planning to consider for approval a TMS device, developed for the treatment of major depression, called Neurostar System by Neuronetics.

To learn more about the Neurostar System go here

Dec 03, 2006

A brain chip to control paralyzed limbs

Via Medgadget

Robert Kirsch and coll., researchers at the at Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center, are developing a more intuitive way for severely paralyzed individuals to regain motor function:

Scientists are now building a device that records brain signals and transmits them to paralyzed muscles, potentially returning muscle control to severely paralyzed patients. In the prosthetic system, which is still in early development, a brain chip records neural signals from the part of the brain that controls movement. The chip then processes those signals, sending precise messages to wires implanted in different muscles of the patient's arm or hand, triggering the paralyzed limb to grab a glass or scratch the nose. "Our ultimate goal is for a person to think and effortlessly move the arm ," says Robert Kirsch , associate director of the Functional Electrical Stimulation Center, at Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Cleveland, OH.

But for some patients, especially severely paralyzed individuals with control over few muscles, using signals recorded directly from the brain to control the paralyzed limbs could provide an easier and more intuitive way to move. So the Cleveland researchers are working with John Donoghue , a neuroscientist at Brown University, who has developed implantable brain chips that record and process electrical activity directly from neurons. The device, made by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems , in Foxborough, MA, consists of a tiny chip containing 100 electrodes that record signals from hundreds of neurons in the motor cortex, the part of the brain that modulates movement. A computer algorithm then translates this complex pattern of activity into a signal used to control a computer or prosthetic limb.

The project is likely to be complex. Donoghue and colleagues must first make their brain chip wireless and fully implantable. (Currently, patients have some hardware protruding from their skull and are connected to a computer via wires.) An implantable system would minimize the risk of infection, and it might also help patients learn to use the system. Eberhard Fetz , a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, in Seattle, who is developing similar systems in monkeys, says that an implantable device would allow patients to use the system 24 hours a day, which would help them learn to modulate neural signals for precise control.


MIT Technology Review article

Nov 29, 2006

Driving a Wheelchair with Your Shirt

From Medgadget 

Researchers Fishbach and Mussa-Ivaldi at Northwestern University's Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have developed a high-tech fabric which promises to help wheelchair bound patients.  

From the article at MIT Tech Review:

Adaptive, sensor-laden garments could provide a new way for quadriplegics to control their wheelchairs. The system, which is still in an early stage of development, identifies the ideal set of movements that can be employed as control commands for each individual user. "We think this will benefit the most difficult patients, such as those who can move only their head or shoulders," says Alon Fishbach, a scientist at Northwestern who is among those developing the device.

People with high-level spinal-cord injuries often lose control of their hands, but they may still be able to move their shoulders or chests. More and more such patients survive their injuries, thanks to respiratory devices that help them breathe. But these people have limited options when selecting devices to control their wheelchairs or computers. They might use a sip/puff switch, which converts the user's sip or puff of air into a specific command, or a headswitch, which records head movements via a switch on the back of the wheelchair. "But the disadvantage of these devices is that patients must fit the capacities of the machine, rather than the other way around," says Ferdinando Mussa-Ivaldi, another Northwestern scientist working on the device. "If a patient can move their right side more than their left, an intelligent interface could pick up on this."

To overcome this design flaw, the researchers are developing an adaptive device using sensor-laden fabric. The garment is printed with 52 flexible, piezoresistive sensors developed at the University of Pisa. These sensors are made of electroactive polymers that change voltage depending on the angle at which they are stretched. The sensors can detect fine scale movements of the upper body and arms.

The researchers are currently focusing on a system to control wheelchairs, but they say the device could be used to control a wide range of machines.


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