Paralyzed people and Parkinson’s disease patients can regain some control of their limbs and symptoms with neural implants. The problem is that with traditional implant hookups, wires from the implant run through the skull and connect with an external computer. Not only are the wires cumbersome but there is a high risk of infection with the open entry holes in the skull.
Scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have designed a low power chip that works with existing neural implants. The smart chip adds four important improvements to previous technologies. First, the chip transmits the data from the brain via wireless signal to an external data receiver. The second advantage the smart chip brings is a high degree of accuracy with the huge quantities of data; in testing with animals, the NTU chip was able to send brain signals to the hands and fingers with 95% accuracy. The third feature is the ability to analyze huge amounts of data and compress the results into small packets. The last benefit is power consumption; by only needing to transmit a small amount of compressed data, the process uses minimal power.
NTU’s multipurpose companion smart chip that can do much of the heavy lifting for neural implants allows the implant designers to focus on form factor, sensors and software. The same chip can be used in other settings when large quantities of data need to be analyzed and searched, but the improvements for Parkinson’s patients and paraplegics are the most compelling.