ARM wants to put a microchip in your brain

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19/05/2017

Microchips get everywhere these days, and now ARM has partnered with an American university to try and find ways of putting one into your brain.

The Cambridge chip design giant and the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) at Washington University have signed an agreement whereby the CSNE will develop a unique ‘brain-implantable’ chip aimed at solving neurodegenerative disorders. The CSNE is a research centre working to develop innovative ways to connect a deep computational understanding of how the brain adapts and processes information with the design of implantable devices.

“The human brain is one of the final frontiers for technological innovation,” said Karthik Ranjan, ARM’s director of healthcare and new technologies in a blog post .

“Imagine a future where paralysis resulting from spinal cord injuries is only a temporary obstacle, rather than a permanent state. Imagine artificial limbs that can send the user feedback about how hot or cold their cup of coffee is, or just how tightly they are holding their loved one’s hand. Imagine a future where temporary implants can help an individual recover from a stroke or manage other debilitating neurological conditions. Now, all of these seemingly impossible medical applications of new technology stand to be within reach for bi-directional brain-computer interfaces (BCCIs).”

The chip is being designed to address stroke, spinal cord injury and other neurological conditions, which often causese serious health issues such as paralysis,

The research project will design a chip which is able to take neural signals from the brain that represent movements the person with paralysis wants to make; before directing those signals to a stimulator implanted in the spinal cord itself. So the person will be able to make the desired movements when they want to, effectively overcoming their paralysis.

It is hoped that in the future the device will also be able to send information in the reverse direction, allowing the person to once again feel what their hand is touching.

“Research is also demonstrating that use of such a system may eventually help to coax brain neurons to rewire in ways that help the brain recover from stroke,” said Ranjan.

“The result of this BBCI collaboration is development of neural devices that will benefit people by restoring sensation, limb function and augmenting the brain’s natural healing capabilities.”

ARM’s small but powerful Cortex-M0 processor will be used for the project.

“The project is a natural fit for ARM and our vision of improving lives around the globe by shaping a smarter, happier and healthier world with technology,” Ranjan added.

“Our ongoing goal of increasing the power-efficiency of ARM products aligns with CSNE’s advanced research work in developing low-power, efficient and implantable neural devices for medical applications.”


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