Science Daily brings news (from Nature Biomedical Engineering) of a new, well, not “killer,” but “really pretty useful” app for people suffering a wide range of brain disorders, from addiction to Parkinson’s. It’s a smartphone-based controller for neural implants that can turn brain cells on or off:
The device, using Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and powerful bluetooth low-energy, can target specific neurons of interest using drug and light for prolonged periods.
Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Washington in Seattle collaborated to invent a neural device with a replaceable drug cartridge, which could allow neuroscientists to study the same brain circuits for several months without worrying about running out of drugs.
These ‘plug-n-play’ drug cartridges were assembled into a brain implant for mice with a soft and ultrathin probe (thickness of a human hair), which consisted of microfluidic channels and tiny LEDs (smaller than a grain of salt), for unlimited drug doses and light delivery.
Controlled with an elegant and simple user interface on a smartphone, neuroscientists can easily trigger any specific combination or precise sequencing of light and drug deliveries in any implanted target animal without need to be physically inside the laboratory. Using these wireless neural devices, researchers could also easily setup fully automated animal studies where behaviour of one animal could positively or negatively affect behaviour in other animals by conditional triggering of light and/or drug delivery.
Michael Bruchas, a professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine and pharmacology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, said this technology will help researchers in many ways.
“It allows us to better dissect the neural circuit basis of behaviour, and how specific neuromodulators in the brain tune behaviour in various ways,” he said. “We are also eager to use the device for complex pharmacological studies, which could help us develop new therapeutics for pain, addiction, and emotional disorders.”