Injectable 'Cyborg' Brain Implant Can Monitor and Manipulate Brain Activity

Tuesday, 09 June 2015 - 2:57PM
Weird Science
Neuroscience
Medical Tech
Tuesday, 09 June 2015 - 2:57PM
Injectable 'Cyborg' Brain Implant Can Monitor and Manipulate Brain Activity
Mind control is a ubiquitous trope in sci-fi, from Marvel's Mind Gem to Professor X's powers to- everything, really. Now, a team of Harvard neuroscientists may have created a real-life version of the Chitauri Scepter, as they have successfully injected an electrical scaffold into mice brains that, according to a new paper, is capable of "continuous monitoring and manipulation of [the brain's] properties."

The newly created scaffold is composed of a flexible polymer mesh lined with tiny electrical devices. While other such devices have been invented, previously used methods of delivery, such as a silicon probe, were not delicate enough to consistently avoid damage to the brain. This particular scaffolding is groundbreaking because it's the first to be successfully injected into the brain with a syringe. Once injected, the scaffolding unfurls and melds with the brain, allowing the electrical devices to monitor and manipulate the activity of individual neurons. 

"I do feel that this has the potential to be revolutionary," lead author Charles Lieber said in a Harvard statement. "This opens up a completely new frontier where we can explore the interface between electronic structures and biology. For the past 30 years, people have made incremental improvements in micro-fabrication techniques that have allowed us to make rigid probes smaller and smaller, but no one has addressed this issue - the electronics/cellular interface - at the level at which biology works."

If this sounds like a dystopian, Clockwork Orange-type brainwashing, that's because it easily could be. The treatment is currently only being performed on mice, but the research team aims to use it on humans once they determine that the method is safe. It could have any number of positive clinical applications, such as a treatment for Parkinson's disease, but hopefully they'll proceed with caution.

"These type of things have never been done before, from both a fundamental neuroscience and medical perspective," Lieber said. "It's really exciting - there are a lot of potential applications."

Via io9.
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Injectable Cyborg Brain Implant Monitors & Manipulates Brain Activity

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