Mind control has never been so high-tech. Scientists have created a tiny, smartphone-controlled brain implant capable of selectively manipulating brain cell circuits — and uncovering neurological problems, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, addiction and depression, a new study finds.
A team of engineers with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and neuroscientists from the University of Washington published their joint research in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.
“We are eager to use the device for complex pharmacological studies, which could help us develop new therapeutics for pain, addiction and emotional disorders,” says University of Washington professor Michael Bruchas.
Using “Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and powerful Bluetooth” energy, the tech works by targeting specific neurons using drugs and light. The replaceable cartridges allow the same brain circuits to be studied for months.
The tech has only been studied in mice so far, with the implant inserted into the rodents’ brains via a hair-thin probe. Scientists then controlled the implant with their smartphone, changing drug quantities and light sequencing with the touch of a finger and manipulating the mice’s movement for over a month.
Previously, the most cutting-edge neuroscience tech required bulky metal tubes and optic fibers that caused brain lesions and didn’t last as long.
“This revolutionary device is the fruit of advanced electronics design and powerful micro- and nanoscale engineering,” says KAIST professor Jae-Woong Jeong.