For almost two decades, Stanford electrical engineering professor Krishna Shenoy and neuroscientists in his Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory have been working on implantable brain sensors that allow them to record and decipher the electrical activity of neurons that control body movement.
The long-term goal: to build prosthetics that amputees and those with paralysis can control with their thoughts.
Currently, the process of analyzing neural activity is time-consuming and laborious. But in a paper in the journal Neuron, Shenoy and his team reveal that they have established a vastly simpler way to study the brain’s electrical activity. Their findings could one day open the door to a new age of super-compact, low-power, potentially wireless brain sensors that would bring thought-controlled prosthetics into much wider use.
In essence, the team has circumvented today’s painstaking process of tracking the activity of individual neurons in favor of decoding neural activity in the aggregate. Each time a neuron fires it sends an electrical signal — known as a “spike” — to the next neuron down the line. It’s the sort of intercellular communication that turns a notion in the mind into muscle contraction elsewhere in the body. “Each neuron has its own electrical fingerprint and no two are identical,” says Eric Trautmann, a postdoctoral researcher in Shenoy’s lab and first author of the paper.
Neuroscientists call that process “spike sorting,” and it must be done for every neuron in every experiment, an endeavor that eats up many thousands of hours of researcher time each year and is only going to get more time consuming as scientists build implants with greater numbers of electrodes. Indeed, researchers estimate that sensors will have 1,000 or more electrodes — up from 100 today — at which point, it would take a neuroscientist 100 hours or more to sort the spikes by hand for every experiment.
Image Credit: neurosciencenews.com
Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen. Follow him on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen
News This Week
Scientists from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI) have developed a contact lens that can capture and detect exosomes, nanometer-sized vesicles found in bodily secretions which have the potential for being diagnostic cancer [...]
Among the total number of deaths caused by different types of cancer, esophageal cancer is the sixth most significant. Several conventional treatments, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and surgery have multiple side effects, including off-target [...]
Cell membrane-coated nanoparticles, applied in targeted drug delivery strategies, combine the intrinsic advantages of synthetic nanoparticles and cell membranes. Although stem cell-based delivery systems were highlighted for their targeting capability in tumor therapy, inappropriate [...]
When babies in the African countries of Guinea Bissau and Uganda were given the tuberculosis vaccine, something remarkable happened. Instead of the vaccine only protecting against the target bacteria – Myocbacterium tuberculosis – the tuberculosis vaccine offered broad protection against a [...]
Thousands of years ago, across the Eastern Mediterranean, multiple Bronze Age civilizations took a distinct turn for the worse at around the same time. The Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Akkadian Empire both collapsed, and there was [...]
IN OCTOBER 2014, virologist Edward Holmes took a tour of the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, a once relatively overlooked city of about 11 million people in the central Chinese province of Hubei. The market would [...]
Self-healable ionic sensing materials with fatigue resistance are imperative in robotics and soft electronics for extended service life. The existing artificial ionic skins with self-healing capacity were prepared by network reconfiguration, constituting low-energy amorphous [...]
As demand for solar energy rises around the world, scientists are working to improve the performance of solar devices—important if the technology is to compete with traditional fuels. But researchers face theoretical limits on [...]
When shrimp shell nanoparticles were mixed into cement paste, the material became substantially stronger — researchers propose an innovation that could lead to less seafood waste and fewer carbon dioxide emissions from concrete production. [...]
A black-and-white video shared on social media showed a microscopic corkscrew-shaped helix as it appeared to consume a sperm, transport it, and ultimately lead the little swimmer into the wall of an [...]
Polymers containing quantum dots (QDs) are considered crucial components of next-generation consumer items, but ambiguity remains regarding how these compounds may negatively affect public health and the environment. A pre-proof paper from the Journal of Hazardous [...]
A new copper coating that kills bacteria quicker and in greater amounts than current formulations could soon be available for hospitals and other high-traffic facilities. Although current formulations made of pure copper are antibacterial [...]
A vaccination as tumor therapy - with a vaccine individually created from a patient's tissue sample that " attaches" the body's own immune system to cancer cells: the basis for this long-term vision has [...]
Although retinoic acid (RA) can induce cell death, its weak anticancer efficacy limits its clinical applications. To this end, stimulus-responsive self-assembling prodrug-based nanomedicines are promising candidates that enable controlled drug delivery. In an article [...]
Graphene is a multifunctional carbon nanomaterial widely synthesized for its applications in composites, energy storage, and sensors. Although previous reviews mentioned that achieving an increased yield compromises graphene quality, limiting its commercialization, recent research [...]
A new COVID variant has recently been detected in several countries including the UK, US, India, Australia and Germany. Called BA.2.75, it’s a subvariant of omicron. You might have also heard it called “Centaurus”, the [...]