Wireless Brain Sensors to Connect Brains to Computers

In the journal Neuron, scientists in a collaboration led by Brown University describe a wireless brain-sensing system to acquire high-fidelity neural data.

Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) research has already permitted apparently “magic” demonstrations of the power of advanced neurotechnology. BCI research is now picking up speed – and significant funding. All seems to indicate that the next decade will see the beginning of a Golden Age of neurotechnology, with breathtaking implications. We may soon be able to drive our car by thought alone as foreseen by Nissan researchers and develop artificial telepathy between persons far away. Like today’s cell phones – but implanted in the brain.

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Vast Amounts of Brain Data Wirelessly and Continuously Streamed from Brain Microcircuits

Wireless brain sensing setup
The head-mounted, 100-channel transmitter is only 5 centimeters in its largest dimension and weighs only 46.1 grams, but can transmit data up to 200 megabits a second.

Neuroscience research has been constrained by the cables required to connect brain sensors to computers for analysis.  The new technology uses a new high data-rate, low-power wireless brain sensor designed to enable neuroscience research that cannot be accomplished with current sensors that tether subjects with cabled connections. Via a small port embedded in a subject’s skull, the transmitter connects to a tiny implanted electrode array that detects the activity of scores of neurons in the cortex.

The results show that the technology transmitted rich brain signals from laboratory animals as they slept and woke or exercised. In one experiment, three monkeys took walks on a treadmill while the researchers used the wireless system to measure neural signals associated with the brain’s motion commands. The paper’s senior and corresponding author, Professor Arto Nurmikko of the Brown Institute for Brain Science, says:

We view this as a platform device for tapping into the richness of electrical signals from the brain among animal models where their neural circuit activity reflects entirely volitional and naturalistic behavior, not constrained to particular space. This enables new types of neuroscience experiments with vast amounts of brain data wirelessly and continuously streamed from brain microcircuits.

Images from Brown University and Shutterstock.

Giulio Prisco is a freelance writer specialized in science, technology, business and future studies.