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Scientists Develop Wireless Networks that Allow Brain Circuits to Be Controlled Remotely through the Internet
Wireless implantable devices and IoT could manipulate the brains of animals from anywhere around the world due to their minimalistic hardware, low setup cost, ease of use, and customizable versatility A new study shows that researchers can remotely control the brain circuits of numerous animals simultaneously and independently through the internet. The scientists believe this newly developed technology can speed up brain research and various neuroscience studies to uncover basic brain functions as well as the underpinnings of various neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders. A multidisciplinary team of researchers at KAIST, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Colorado, Boulder, created a wireless ecosystem with its own wireless implantable devices and Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure to enable high-throughput neuroscience experiments over the internet. This innovative technology could enable scientists to manipulate the brains of animals from anywhere around the world. The study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering on November 25 “This novel technology is highly versatile and adaptive. It can remotely control numerous neural implants and laboratory tools in real-time or in a scheduled way without direct human interactions,” said Professor Jae-Woong Jeong of the School of Electrical Engineering at KAIST and a senior author of the study. “These wireless neural devices and equipment integrated with IoT technology have enormous potential for science and medicine.” The wireless ecosystem only requires a mini-computer that can be purchased for under $45, which connects to the internet and communicates with wireless multifunctional brain probes or other types of conventional laboratory equipment using IoT control modules. By optimally integrating the versatility and modular construction of both unique IoT hardware and software within a single ecosystem, this wireless technology offers new applications that have not been demonstrated before by a single standalone technology. This includes, but is not limited to minimalistic hardware, global remote access, selective and scheduled experiments, customizable automation, and high-throughput scalability. “As long as researchers have internet access, they are able to trigger, customize, stop, validate, and store the outcomes of large experiments at any time and from anywhere in the world. They can remotely perform large-scale neuroscience experiments in animals deployed in multiple countries,” said one of the lead authors, Dr. Raza Qazi, a researcher with KAIST and the University of Colorado, Boulder. “The low cost of this system allows it to be easily adopted and can further fuel innovation across many laboratories,” Dr. Qazi added. One of the significant advantages of this IoT neurotechnology is its ability to be mass deployed across the globe due to its minimalistic hardware, low setup cost, ease of use, and customizable versatility. Scientists across the world can quickly implement this technology within their existing laboratories with minimal budget concerns to achieve globally remote access, scalable experimental automation, or both, thus potentially reducing the time needed to unravel various neuroscientific challenges such as those associated with intractable neurological conditions. Another senior author on the study, Professor Jordan McCall from the Department of Anesthesiology and Center for Clinical Pharmacology at Washington University in St. Louis, said this technology has the potential to change how basic neuroscience studies are performed. “One of the biggest limitations when trying to understand how the mammalian brain works is that we have to study these functions in unnatural conditions. This technology brings us one step closer to performing important studies without direct human interaction with the study subjects.” The ability to remotely schedule experiments moves toward automating these types of experiments. Dr. Kyle Parker, an instructor at Washington University in St. Louis and another lead author on the study added, “This experimental automation can potentially help us reduce the number of animals used in biomedical research by reducing the variability introduced by various experimenters. This is especially important given our moral imperative to seek research designs that enable this reduction.” The researchers believe this wireless technology may open new opportunities for many applications including brain research, pharmaceuticals, and telemedicine to treat diseases in the brain and other organs remotely. This remote automation technology could become even more valuable when many labs need to shut down, such as during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. This work was supported by grants from the KAIST Global Singularity Research Program, the National Research Foundation of Korea, the United States National Institute of Health, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. -PublicationRaza Qazi, Kyle Parker, Choong Yeon Kim, Jordan McCall, Jae-Woong Jeong et al. “Scalable and modular wireless-network infrastructure for large-scale behavioral neuroscience,” Nature Biomedical Engineering, November 25 2021 (doi.org/10.1038/s41551-021-00814-w) -ProfileProfessor Jae-Woong JeongBio-Integrated Electronics and Systems LabSchool of Electrical EngineeringKAIST
Wirelessly Rechargeable Soft Brain Implant Controls Brain Cells
Researchers have invented a smartphone-controlled soft brain implant that can be recharged wirelessly from outside the body. It enables long-term neural circuit manipulation without the need for periodic disruptive surgeries to replace the battery of the implant. Scientists believe this technology can help uncover and treat psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases such as addiction, depression, and Parkinson’s. A group of KAIST researchers and collaborators have engineered a tiny brain implant that can be wirelessly recharged from outside the body to control brain circuits for long periods of time without battery replacement. The device is constructed of ultra-soft and bio-compliant polymers to help provide long-term compatibility with tissue. Geared with micrometer-sized LEDs (equivalent to the size of a grain of salt) mounted on ultrathin probes (the thickness of a human hair), it can wirelessly manipulate target neurons in the deep brain using light. This study, led by Professor Jae-Woong Jeong, is a step forward from the wireless head-mounted implant neural device he developed in 2019. That previous version could indefinitely deliver multiple drugs and light stimulation treatment wirelessly by using a smartphone. For more, Manipulating Brain Cells by Smartphone. For the new upgraded version, the research team came up with a fully implantable, soft optoelectronic system that can be remotely and selectively controlled by a smartphone. This research was published on January 22, 2021 in Nature Communications. The new wireless charging technology addresses the limitations of current brain implants. Wireless implantable device technologies have recently become popular as alternatives to conventional tethered implants, because they help minimize stress and inflammation in freely-moving animals during brain studies, which in turn enhance the lifetime of the devices. However, such devices require either intermittent surgeries to replace discharged batteries, or special and bulky wireless power setups, which limit experimental options as well as the scalability of animal experiments. “This powerful device eliminates the need for additional painful surgeries to replace an exhausted battery in the implant, allowing seamless chronic neuromodulation,” said Professor Jeong. “We believe that the same basic technology can be applied to various types of implants, including deep brain stimulators, and cardiac and gastric pacemakers, to reduce the burden on patients for long-term use within the body.” To enable wireless battery charging and controls, researchers developed a tiny circuit that integrates a wireless energy harvester with a coil antenna and a Bluetooth low-energy chip. An alternating magnetic field can harmlessly penetrate through tissue, and generate electricity inside the device to charge the battery. Then the battery-powered Bluetooth implant delivers programmable patterns of light to brain cells using an “easy-to-use” smartphone app for real-time brain control. “This device can be operated anywhere and anytime to manipulate neural circuits, which makes it a highly versatile tool for investigating brain functions,” said lead author Choong Yeon Kim, a researcher at KAIST. Neuroscientists successfully tested these implants in rats and demonstrated their ability to suppress cocaine-induced behaviour after the rats were injected with cocaine. This was achieved by precise light stimulation of relevant target neurons in their brains using the smartphone-controlled LEDs. Furthermore, the battery in the implants could be repeatedly recharged while the rats were behaving freely, thus minimizing any physical interruption to the experiments. “Wireless battery re-charging makes experimental procedures much less complicated,” said the co-lead author Min Jeong Ku, a researcher at Yonsei University’s College of Medicine. “The fact that we can control a specific behaviour of animals, by delivering light stimulation into the brain just with a simple manipulation of smartphone app, watching freely moving animals nearby, is very interesting and stimulates a lot of imagination,” said Jeong-Hoon Kim, a professor of physiology at Yonsei University’s College of Medicine. “This technology will facilitate various avenues of brain research.” The researchers believe this brain implant technology may lead to new opportunities for brain research and therapeutic intervention to treat diseases in the brain and other organs. This work was supported by grants from the National Research Foundation of Korea and the KAIST Global Singularity Research Program. -Profile Professor Jae-Woong Jeong https://www.jeongresearch.org/ School of Electrical Engineering KAIST
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