Scientists develop a way to control brain cells using a smartphone

A group of Korean and American scientists has developed a device that can manipulate neural circuits with a minuscule implant controlled via a smartphone.

The scientists believe the breakthrough can aid in speeding up brain disease recovery for illnesses such as depression, addiction, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and pain according to a journal published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.

The newly developed device features replaceable Lego-like cartridges that hold a certain type of drug as well as low-energy Bluetooth. It is used to target specific brain neurons with light and drugs for periods at a time.

Raza Qazi, from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the University of Colorado Boulder, is credited for leading the research. “The wireless neural device enables chronic chemical and optical neuromodulation that has never been achieved before,” he says about the breakthrough.

Science Daily reports that the neural device is controlled via a smartphone. The advanced technology allows neuroscientists to trigger precise sequences and combinations of light and drug distribution to anyone with the brain implant. This eliminates the need for scientists to be physically present inside the lab for treatment sequencing.

One particular benefit to this device is that it can be used for long-term implantation, unlike the conventional rigid tubes that neuroscientists currently use. These rigid metal tubes are not suitable for such use as it can cause lesions on soft brain tissue if not replaced over time.

If the device is released for general use neuroscientists will be able to do away with bulky and complex equipment to instead use an elegant and simple smartphone interface.

Christian Woods
Christian Woods
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.
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