A team of scientists in Korea and the United States have invented a device that can control neural circuits using a tiny brain implant controlled by a smartphone.
Researchers believe that the device can speed up efforts to uncover brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, addiction, depression, and pain.
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.
“The wireless neural device enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before,” said lead author Raza Qazi, a researcher with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and University of Colorado Boulder.
Qazi said this technology significantly overshadows conventional methods used by neuroscientists, which usually involve rigid metal tubes and optical fibers to deliver drugs and light.
Using 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.
“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.”