Researchers at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, have invented a brain stimulation device that can be installed via a minimally invasive procedure, providing an alternative to open brain surgery. The device, called a Stentrode™, is made from flexible nitinol and is just 4mm in diameter. It can be implanted in the blood vessels next to the brain's motor cortex via a small incision in the neck. The device "listens" to brain signals, and "talks back" by delivering currents directly to targeted brain areas. This direct targeting is known as "focal brain stimulation" and is used to treat Parkinson's, epilepsy, and depression symptoms. The team's research results were recently published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
“We can now target both the motor cortex (responsible for planning, control and execution of movements) and the sensory cortex (which receives feedback about actions) with one device,” says lead researcher Dr Nick Opie from the University of Melbourne’s Vascular Bionics Laboratory. “This means we could, for example, help spinal cord patients use a prosthetic arm by commanding it to grab an item, and then providing feedback on that action so they don’t grab it too hard or too soft.”
From the University of Melbourne article: "The team observed focused muscle movements in response to the device being stimulated, like twitches in the neck, lip and eyes. Their next step is to investigate the parameters for stimulation, to discover the lowest possible current the device requires and make it as safe as possible, before progressing to human trials.Because it has now been shown to manage two-way communication, essentially acting as a feedback loop within the brain, the device also has potential applications for helping people with spinal cord injuries control prosthetic limbs with their brain."
Read more about the the tiny device that offers an alternative to open brain surgery at University of Melbourne.