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Scientists Successfully Implant Chip That Controls The Brain Allowi...

Published: 15 settembre 2011Posted in: studi di frontiera, tecnologia
http://www.fabioghioni.net/blog/2011/09/15/scientists-successfully-...
Scientists Successfully Implant Chip That Controls The Brain Allowing Thoughts, Memory And Behavior To Be Transferred From One Brain To Another

Scientists working at the University of Southern California, home of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, have created an artificial memory system that allows thoughts, memories and learned behavior to be transferred from one brain to another.

brainIn a scene right out of a George Orwell novel, a team of scientists working in the fields of “neural engineering” and “Biomimetic

MicroElectronic Systems” have successfully created a chip that controls the brain and can be used as a storage device for long-term memories. In studies the scientists have been able to record, download and transfer memories into other hosts with the same chip implanted. The advancement in technology brings the world one step closer to a global police state and the reality of absolute mind control.

More terrifying is the potential for implementation of what was only a science fiction fantasy – the “Thought Police” – where the government reads people’s memories and thoughts and then rehabilitate them through torture before they ever even commit a crime based on a statistical computer analysis showing people with certain types of thoughts are likely to commit a certain type of crime in the future.

We already pre-emptively invade nations and torture alleged terrorist suspects with absolutely no due process of law, so the idea of pre-emptively torturing a terrorist suspect before hand to prevent them from committing an act of terrorism in the future really isn’t that far fetched of an idea.

Perhaps a less sensational example, than those I just depicted out of own of Orwell’s famous dystopian novels would be using the technology as it is depicted the modern day Matrix movies, in which computer programs are uploaded into people’s brains allowing them to instantly learn how to perform a wide variety of tasks.

That is exactly the example that Smart Planet uses in their write-up on the USC press release.

 

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Neurophysics and Neuroengineering
http://nurmikko.engin.brown.edu/?q=node/1
The Brain Implantable Chip - Wireless Recording for Neuroprosthetic Application

We have developed a prototype cortical neural interface microsystem for brain implantable neuroengineering applications, featuring hybrid RF (radio-frequency) inductive and IR (infrared) optical telemetries. The system is aimed at neural recording from primates by converting cortical signals to a digital stream of IR light pulses, while acquiring clock signal and electrical power by RF inductive means.

The implantable unit employs a flexible Kapton (polyimide base) substrate for integration of analog and digital microelectronics and on-chip optoelectronic components, while adapting to the anatomical and physiological constraints of the environment. An ultra-low power analog CMOS chip, which includes preamplifier and multiplexing circuitry, is directly flip-chip bonded to the microelectrode array to form the immediate cortical neuroprobe device. A 16-channel version of the probe has been tested in various in-vivo animal experiments, including measurements of neural activity in somatosensory cortex of a rat.



(Images from: A Brain Implantable Microsystem with Hybrid RF/IR Telemetry for Advanced Neuroengineering Applications, 2007)

On Wireless Power for the Brain Implantable Chip

Currently we are striving to make our BIC device fully implantable. To make this possible, we’re adopting IR- RF data power telemetry for the next version of BIC device. As shown in the following figure, internal device consists of microelectrode array with amplifier on front-end and ASIC, ADC etc on the back end panel. Also on fully implantable internal unit, there is a coil printed on the back-end of a substrate which receive power, and VCSEL (850nm), mounted in the middle of the coil, sends data with full bandwidth through skin. To pick up those signals and feed the implantable device, external unit consists of primary coil and IR detector. While the concept of the whole system is straightforward, there are several challenging issues on RF/IR data transmission when the device is actually implanted.

Design Issues: RF coils on external and internal unit should align well together to deliver maximum power, while the external part should be minimally obtrusive and wearable easily as shown in cochlear implant. The device for freely moving animal model may be different from the future clinical application, but both should be optimized appropriately.

Transmission efficiency: Optical data has loss of power when it passes through skin due to scattering and absorption (and small but certain amount is due to back reflection). As the photodiode should be in the midst of the primary coil, the optical pickup is subject to picking up the RF output especially when the output of PD is tens (or less than)of mV level. This requires the proper optical model of scattering through tissue, since the total area of scattered light is related to the size of photodiode, and the size of PD is related to the time constant (speed of the system).

Biocompatibility: How big the temperature change of tissue will be near the implanted device when RF power is applied, and what will be the tolerable range? How can the system detect and shut down as soon as possible when induced power of implanted device by any reason? These are the region of biocompatibility that one might actually have during the clinical trial, and should be proved perfectly before any possible clinical application.

These and other possible issues that can come up with the implementation should be solved, and we’re working on these for the next version of BIC.

Brain implants and cognitive side-effect trading
via Mind Hacks by vaughan on 2/26/09
http://www.mindhacks.com/blog/2009/02/brain_implants_and_c.html
This week's Nature has an interesting article on the ethics of electronic brain enhancements. It does something quite unusual for an article on technological brain enhancements - it talks about the side effects. Brain implants and 'neuroprosthetics' have been widely covered by the science media in recent years owing to a number of impressive advances but very little discussion has focused on the adverse effects.In considering the ethics of using brain implants to enhance both the damaged and healthy brain, this article actually touches on some of the research on unwanted effects of deep brain stimulation.

Many patients with Parkinson's disease who have motor complications that are no longer manageable through medication report significant benefits from DBS. Nevertheless, compared with the best drug therapy, DBS for Parkinson's disease has shown a greater incidence of serious adverse effects such as nervous system and psychiatric disorders and a higher suicide rate. Case studies revealed hypomania and personality changes of which the patients were unaware, and which disrupted family relationships before the stimulation parameters were readjusted.

Such examples illustrate the possible dramatic side effects of DBS, but subtler effects are also possible. Even without stimulation, mere recording devices such as brain-controlled motor prostheses may alter the patient's personality. Patients will need to be trained in generating the appropriate neural signals to direct the prosthetic limb. Doing so might have slight effects on mood or memory function or impair speech control.

The author of the piece argues that this does not raise any new ethical questions, as many psychiatric drugs also have side effects. However, it's probably true to say that ethical difficulties often arise with regard to specific side effects - talking about unwanted effects in general is a bit too vague to be useful. Risk-benefit analyses are only useful when you know both the extent and quality of the risks and benefits and this is where it truly gets interesting. The neuropsychology literature is full of surprising findings about what sort of functions the brain performs, suggesting that specific effects, wanted and unwanted, may have to be traded off against each other. For example, is the loss of the ability to have an unconscious emotional reaction to a loved one worth a change in pathological gambling behaviour? This is a hypothetical example based on the role of the ventromedial cortex in both situations, but who knows what sort of effects might need to be weighed up against each other.
Nature Network has an online discussion about the issues the piece raises which also links to the weekly podcast which has an interview with the author.
http://network.nature.com/groups/naturenewsandopinion/forum/topics/...
Nature article 'Man, machine and in between'.
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7233/full/4571080a.html
"The Program" - Dick Cheney Assassination sources and methods
http://www.larsonmedia.net/special_access/biomed.htm
On March 18, 2008, the Central Intelligence Agency responded in writing to a Larson Media Freedom of Information Act request. The document discloses that the CIA's use of biomedical intellectual property developed at the Alfred Mann Foundation, Second Sight LLC, Advanced Bionics, and under Naval Space Warfare (SPAWAR) contract #N6600106C8005 is "currently and properly classified pursuant to an executive order in the interest of national security" and applies to the CIA Director's "statutory obligation to protect from disclosure, intelligence sources and methods". View CIA Document The technology, developed under the DARPA programs of Tony Tether, Col. Geoffrey Ling and N.I.H programs of William Heetderks have been protected as a Defense "Special Access Program"1 (SAP), which is the official terminology for a "black project". The research has resulted in implantable devices that are millimeter and submillimeter in size6 (click to view), can be surreptitiously implanted10, are fabricated in a manner that the devices cannot be detected or localized by clinical medical or radiology techniques and provides a shocking amount of surveillance capability regarding a subjects activities which may include visual and auditory biofeedback data. Additionally, the devices are capable of delivering testosterone or any other biological agent. View testosterone Document

The FCC has provided a bandwidth allocation allowing remote wireless data communication click to view. Additionally, the devices include a method for delivery of testosterone3 or any other biological agent for behavior modification and tactical weapon applicationsclick to view. The SAP holds "unacknowledged"2 status and statutory disclosure mandates to Congress were "waived"4. Under the program, Department of Defense components misappropriated monies that were allocated by Congress for Childrens Health research, engaged in unlawful research efforts, and the failure to disclose the SAP activities to Congress violates U.S. Title 10 (Subtitle A, Part I, Chapter 2, § 119). In 2006, Russel Tice, a NSA and DIA Agent who worked within SAP's attempted to disclose to Congressional Members that NSA Director Michael Hayden was engaging in unconstitutional and unlawful acts and using SAP to mask illegality. While Tice couldn't publicly disclose details, media interviews revealed that his specialty was telemetry and sensors and that his disclosure would be far more shocking than the NY Times story disclosing that Bush was circumventing FISA and wiretapping Americans without a warrant. Larson Media founder Dave Larson became involved in very early research efforts in March of 1997 when Gerald Loeb of the Alfred Mann Foundation implanted a quantity of small millimeter sized biomedical devices in his person for research purposes while under NIH contract. Some of the devices became infected and were removed by General Practice Physicians, however many residual devices remain implanted and have been misused in retaliation and reprisal for whistleblower efforts. View medical documents Additionally the Bush Administration has obstructed hundreds of good faith based efforts to seek appropriate resolution, has derailed civil motions for injunctive relief and which sought no monetary damages, has obstructed investigations which were eagerly initiated by the FBI, has prevented the FBI from submitting recovered devices to the FBI crime lab, and has continued to engage in acts of torture domestically.


Most disturbing is that "The Program" is primarily a domestic program which has targeted Americans. The WD2XLW FCC license11 which is being used for wireless data link only permits operation within U.S. borders, and also provides for an unlimited amount of intelligence personal to access FCC regulated spectrum anonymously without having to communicate the call sign. Nobody wants to deny the Intelligence Community the tools it needs to keep America secure, however evidence shows that the sources and methods are primarily a domestic tool and have been routinely deployed against Americans. Larson Media founder Dave Larson was involved in very early research efforts at the Mann Foundation as a research subject and these efforts were classified as a "unacknowledged" Special Access Program and sought to disclose misappropriation of funding, unlawful research efforts and abuse of national security to conceal domestic criminal acts to members of Congress and agency Inspector Generals. Mike Hayden and SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld asserted that Congress and the Inspector Generals lacked the necessary security clearances and began retaliation and abuse to obstruct the whistleblower efforts. The sources and methods were used in this manner while Dave Larson was confirmed by California Secretary of State Deborah Bowen as a candidate for the 2008 Presidential Primary election and sets a disturbing precedence. The desire to deploy this technology domestically and protect government actors from criminal prosecution significantly explains almost all of the controversial policies regarding rendition, torture, indefinite detention, circumventing FISA, telecom immunity, "ghost" sites and "ghost" detainees, failure to provide Congress with DOJ OLC documents, the destroyed CIA Tapes and refusal for Iraq withdrawl timelines. In fact, Bush has become dependant on the war on terror because without the expanded executive authority provided at time of war, the legal protections evaporate leaving Bush Administration officials in a legal jackpot. It is clear that Congress has been deceived into authorizing Bush and CIA Director Hayden into using sources and methods which remain unknown, against anyone including Americans, and the identities of ghost detainees and the locations of ghost sites are also being concealed providing the legal framework for domestic use against Americans in absolute secrecy.The lack of oversight by the legislative has caused the technology to be used to harm Americans rather than protect them, and has resulted in sensitive information being leaked to literally thousands of unauthorized individuals. Congress needs to know what has transpired and the information is not going to come from Dick Cheney's fire prone office, Bush's "proprietary" format record retention archives, or Alberto Gonzales. Intelligence Community personnel who have direct knowledge and have identified problems are bound to non-disclosure. Additionally, protections for whistleblowers are clearly deficient, so this information is not likely to come from any other channel.

Recovered Biomedical Devices

Photos of recovered biomedical devices and comparison to Mann Foundation patent applications.
http://www.larsonmedia.net/special_access/devices.htm
Electronic Chip, Interacting With The Brain, Modifies Pathways For Controlling Movement
Main Category: Neurology / Neuroscience
Also Included In: Stroke; Rehabilitation / Physical Therapy; Medical Devices / Diagnostics
Article Date: 28 Oct 2006 - 13:00 PDT
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/55031.php
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) are working on an implantable electronic chip that may help establish new nerve connections in the part of the brain that controls movement. Their most recent study, to be published in the Nov. 2, 2006, edition of Nature, showed such a device can induce brain changes in monkeys lasting more than a week. Strengthening of weak connections through this mechanism may have potential in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries, stroke, or paralysis.

The authors of study, titled "Long-Term Motor Cortex Plasticity Induced by an Electronic Neural Implant," were Dr. Andrew Jackson, senior research fellow in physiology and biophysics, Dr. Jaideep Mavoori, who recently earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the UW, and Dr. Eberhard Fetz, professor of physiology and biophysics. For many years Fetz and his colleagues have studied how the brains of monkeys control their limb muscles.

When awake, the brain continuously governs the body's voluntary movements. This is largely done through the activity of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the motor cortex. These nerve cells, or neurons, send signals down to the spinal cord to control the contraction of certain muscles, like those in the arms and legs.

The possibility that these neural signals can be recorded directly and used to operate a computer or to control mechanical devices outside of the body has been driving the rapidly expanding field of brain-computer interfaces, often abbreviated BCI. The recent Nature study suggests that the brain's nerve signals can be harnessed to create changes within itself.

The researchers tested a miniature, self-contained device with a tiny computer chip. The devices were placed on top of the heads of monkeys who were free to carry out their usual behaviors, including sleep. Called a Neurochip, the brain-computer interface was developed by Mavoori for his doctoral thesis.

"The Neurochip records the activity of motor cortex cells," Fetz explained, "It can convert this activity into a stimulus that can be sent back to the brain, spinal cord, or muscle, and thereby set up an artificial connection that operates continuously during normal behavior. This recurrent brain-computer interface creates an artificial motor pathway that the brain may learn to use to compensate for impaired pathways."

Jackson found that, when the brain-computer interface continuously connects neighboring sites in the motor cortex, it produces long-lasting changes. Namely, the movements evoked from the recording site changed to resemble those evoked from the stimulation site.

The researchers said that a likely explanation for these changes is the strengthening of pathways within the cortex from the recording to the stimulation site. This strengthening may have been produced by the continuous synchronization of activity at the two sites, generated by the recurrent brain-computer interface.

Timing is critical for creating these connections, the researchers said. The conditioning effect occurs only if the delay between the recorded activity and the stimulation is brief enough. The changes are produced in a day of continuous conditioning with the recurrent brain-computer interface, but last for many days after the circuit is turned off.

"This unusually long-lasting plasticity may be related to the fact that the conditioning is associated with normal behavior," Fetz said.

----------------------------
Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
----------------------------

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Naval Research, and the University of Washington Royalty Fund.

Contact: Leila Gray
University of Washington
Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time
December 21, 2009 By Lisa Zyga
http://www.physorg.com/news180620740.html
Virus-detecting 'lab on a chip' developed by BYU researchers
http://news.byu.edu/archive09-Dec-labonachip.aspx

A team of BYU engineers and chemists has created an inexpensive silicon microchip that reliably detects viruses, even at low concentrations.

It’s another step toward the goal of enabling physicians and lab technicians to use small chips to test their patients’ samples for specific proteins or viruses. The researchers report their progress in Lab on a Chip, the top scientific journal devoted to the creation of chip-based biological tests.

Aaron Hawkins, professor of electrical and computer engineering at BYU and supervisor of the chip design, said that currently, “Most of the tests that you’re given are fairly inaccurate unless you have a really high concentration of the virus.”

But because Hawkins’ chip screens for particles purely by size, it could accumulate many particles over time that otherwise might be missed by other tests. The hope is that, if such chip tests achieve widespread use, early detection in the doctor’s office rather than a lab could allow doctors to respond before symptoms arise and damage sets in.

How the chips work

The chips work like coin sorters, only they are much, much smaller. Liquids flow until they hit a wall where big particles get stuck and small particles pass through a super-thin slot at the bottom. Each chip’s slot is set a little smaller than the size of the particle to be detected. After the particles get trapped against the wall, they form a line visible with a special camera.

“One of the goals in the ‘lab on a chip’ community is to try to measure down to single particles flowing through a tube or a channel,” said Hawkins, who is also writing a book about aspects of lab-on-a-chip development.

Capturing single particles has important applications besides simply knowing if a particular virus or protein is present.

“One of the things I hope to see is for these chips to become a tool for virus purification,” said David Belnap, an assistant professor of chemistry and co-author on the paper.

He explained that a tool like the BYU chip would advance the pace of his research, allowing him and other researchers to consistently obtain pure samples essential for close inspection of viruses.

Overcoming obstacles to make the chips

A huge barrier to making chips that can detect viruses is $100 million – that’s the cost of machinery precise enough to make chips with nano-sized parts necessary for medical and biological applications.

The BYU group developed an innovative solution. First they used a simpler machine to form two dimensions in micrometers — 1,000 times larger than a nanometer. They formed the third dimension by placing a 50 nanometer-thin layer of metal onto the chip, then topping that with glass deposited by gasses. Finally they used an acid to wash away the thin metal, leaving the narrow gap in the glass as a virus trap.

Tomorrow’s chips

So far, the chips have one slot size. Hawkins says his team will make chips soon with progressively smaller slots, allowing a single channel to screen for particles of multiple sizes. Someone “reading” such a chip would easily be able to determine which proteins or viruses are present based on which walls have particles stacked against them.

After perfecting the chips’ capabilities, the next step, Hawkins says, is to engineer an easy-to-use way for a lab technician to introduce the test sample into the chip.

Mark N. Hamblin, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Hawkins’ lab in BYU’s Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, is the lead author on the paper. Other co-authors are Jie Xuan, Daniel Maynes, H. Dennis Tolley, Adam T. Woolley and Milton L. Lee.

The research team is continuing its work, hoping for the day when tiny medical labs join picture-perfect TVs, fast computers and compact phones in the ranks of useful technologies made possible by microchips.

Brigham Young University Provo, UT 84602 (801) 422-4636
BYU prof Aaron Hawkins and his team worked in one of BYU's dust-free "clean rooms" to develop the delicate technology.
From goscott:
Hi Everyone....yesterday I posted pictures of Organic Implants. One member here asked me how big they are, so I made more pictures. These are dry, and the main thing to notice is the green color!

http://peacepink.ning.com/photo/albums/full-grown-orgainc-implants
Ciao - hello- 你好 12 agosto 2010 / August 12 2010

Ecco il "corpo estraneo" asportato dall'orecchio sinistro di Petrit Demo: vi si vedono bene i "due" elementi principali e soprattuto i "fili" di collegamento - sotto - il certiciato dell'Ospedale tradotto in ingles tramite convalida notarile.

Here the "foreign object" extracted from the left ear of Petrit Demo: on can see the two bodies connected by very noticeable wires. On the sub-chapter ((#richieste di aiuto case 7)), the Hospital certificate does highlighted with its English translation officially certified.

Source: http://www.aisjca-mft.org/chips-viol.htm

ciao Soleilmavis :o)
Forced brain implant MRI scan, investigative reports of Targeted Individual
Sunday, August 22, 2010
http://www.examiner.com/tea-party-in-national/forced-brain-implant-...

Proof that Targeted Individual, James Walbert, resident of Wichita, Kansas is experiencing torturous U.S. human rights abuses involving covertly forced, implanted RFID chips, including one in his brain, and subsequently kept under surveillance for the remote electronic injury is evidenced in his ...

Deborah Dupre', M.Sci., Ed.Sp., QMHP

"Torture -- anywhere, by anyone, anytime -- is illegal, immoral, and indefensible. Individuals, groups, and nations must be held responsible for their actions." ~ Anthony Marsella
Look out, your medicine is watching you
By Ben Hirschler
NEW YORK | Mon Nov 8, 2010 5:29pm EST
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6A754720101108
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Novartis AG plans to seek regulatory approval within 18 months for a pioneering tablet containing an embedded microchip, bringing the concept of "smart-pill" technology a step closer.

The initial program will use one of the Swiss firm's established drugs taken by transplant patients to avoid organ rejection. But Trevor Mundel, global head of development, believes the concept can be applied to many other pills.

"We are taking forward this transplant drug with a chip and we hope within the next 18 months to have something that we will be able to submit to the regulators, at least in Europe," Mundel told the Reuters Health Summit in New York.

"I see the promise as going much beyond that," he added.

Novartis agreed in January to spend $24 million to secure access to chip-in-a-pill technology developed by privately owned Proteus Biomedical of Redwood City, California, putting it ahead of rivals.

The biotech start-up's ingestible chips are activated by stomach acid and send information to a small patch worn on the patient's skin, which can transmit data to a smartphone or send it over the Internet to a doctor.

Mundel said the initial project was focused on ensuring that patients took drugs at the right time and got the dose they needed -- a key issue for people after kidney and other transplant operations, when treatment frequently needs adjustment.

Longer-term, he hopes to expand the "smart pill" concept to other types of medicine and use the wealth of biometric information the Proteus chip can collect, from heart rate and temperature to body movement, to check that drugs are working properly.

Because the tiny chips are added to existing drugs, Novartis does not expect to have to conduct full-scale clinical trials to prove the new products work. Instead, it aims to do so-called bioequivalence tests to show they are the same as the original.

A bigger issue may be what checks should be put in place to protect patients' personal medical data as it is transmitted from inside their bodies by wireless and Bluetooth.

"The regulators all like the concept and have been very encouraging. But ... they want to understand how we are going to solve the data privacy issues," Mundel said.

A technology that ensures a patient takes his or her medicine and checks that it is working properly should deliver better outcomes and justify a higher price tag.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler. Editing by Robert MacMillan)
Computing-- The Army's Remote-Controlled Beetle
The insect's flight path can be wirelessly controlled via a neural implant.
http://www.technologyreview.cc/computing/22039/
Thursday, January 29, 2009
By Emily Singer

A giant flower beetle with implanted electrodes and a radio receiver on its back can be wirelessly controlled, according to research presented this week. Scientists at the University of California developed a tiny rig that receives control signals from a nearby computer. Electrical signals delivered via the electrodes command the insect to take off, turn left or right, or hover in midflight. The research, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), could one day be used for surveillance purposes or for search-and-rescue missions.

Beetles and other flying insects are masters of flight control, integrating sensory feedback from the visual system and other senses to navigate and maintain stable flight, all the while using little energy. Rather than trying to re-create these systems from scratch, Michel Maharbiz and his colleagues aim to take advantage of the beetle's natural abilities by melding insect and machine. His group has previously created cyborg beetles, including ones that have been implanted with electronic components as pupae. But the current research, presented at the IEEE MEMS in Italy, is the first demonstration of a wireless beetle system.

The beetle's payload consists of an off-the-shelf microprocessor, a radio receiver, and a battery attached to a custom-printed circuit board, along with six electrodes implanted into the animals' optic lobes and flight muscles. Flight commands are wirelessly sent to the beetle via a radio-frequency transmitter that's controlled by a nearby laptop. Oscillating electrical pulses delivered to the beetle's optic lobes trigger takeoff, while a single short pulse ceases flight. Signals sent to the left or right basilar flight muscles make the animal turn right or left, respectively.

Most previous research in controlling insect flight has focused on moths. But beetles have certain advantages. The giant flower beetle's size--it ranges in weight from four to ten grams and is four to eight centimeters long--means that it can carry relatively heavy payloads. To be used for search-and-rescue missions, for example, the insect would need to carry a small camera and heat sensor.

In addition, the beetle's flight can be controlled relatively simply. A single signal sent to the wing muscles triggers the action, and the beetle takes care of the rest. "That allows the normal function to control the flapping of the wings," says Jay Keasling, who was not involved in the beetle research but who collaborates with Maharbiz. Minimal signaling conserves the battery, extending the life of the implant. Moths, on the other hand, require a stream of electrical signals in order to keep flying.

The research has been driven in large part by advances in the microelectronics industry, with miniaturization of microprocessors and batteries.

Video: http://www.technologyreview.cc/computing/22039/
Biomedicine--Growing Neural Implants
New approaches could more seamlessly integrate medical devices into the body.
http://www.technologyreview.cc/biomedicine/21087/
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
By Emily Singer

Conductive polymer coatings that weave their way into implanted tissue might one day improve the performance of medical implants, such as cochlear implants and brain stimulators used to treat Parkinson's disease. In early studies, neural interfaces coated with an electrically conductive polymer outperformed conventional metal counterparts. Scientists at the University of Michigan hope that the material's novel properties will help lessen the tissue damage caused by medical implants and boost long-term function.

Use of devices that are surgically implanted into the brain or other parts of the nervous system is growing rapidly. Cochlear implants, which help deaf people hear, and deep brain stimulation, which relieves symptoms of Parkinson's disease, for example, are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Both work by stimulating nerve cells via an implanted electrode. Devices that record and translate neural activity are also under development for people with severe paralysis.

But as use of neural implants grows, so does concern over the damage that those devices can impose on neural tissue. Insertion of the rigid metal electrode into soft tissue triggers a cascade of inflammatory signals, damaging or killing neurons and triggering a scar to form around the metal. "We hope to come up with a way to communicate across the scar layer and send information to and from the device in a way that is as friendly as possible," says David Martin, a materials scientists at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, who is leading the research into the polymer coatings.

Martin and his collaborators coat the electrodes with an electrically conductive polymer originally developed for electronic devices, such as organic LEDs and photovoltaics for solar cells. The polymer coating increases the surface area of the metal-biological interface, which in turn boosts performance of the electrode. "If you have lots of surface area, you can inject current more efficiently," says Douglas McCreery, director of the Neural Engineering Program at the Huntington Medical Research Institute, in Pasadena, CA. "That means less demand on batteries, but, probably more importantly, you're not recruiting the nasty electrochemical reactions that might be hazardous to surrounding tissue."

The Michigan scientists electrochemically deposit the polymer onto the electrode, much like chroming a car bumper. By peppering the material with small amounts of another polymer, they can coax the conductive polymer to form a hairy texture along the metal shaft. Martin says that the approach mimics nature: the numerous tiny alveoli of the lungs, for example, increase the surface area available for the oxygen exchange between air and blood. Scientists can also tack on nanofibers loaded with controlled-release drugs to inhibit the inflammatory reaction.

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