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An Indian-origin scientist has developed a smart chip that can be paired with neural implants for efficient wireless transmission of brain signals -- thus alleviating the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson's disease or give paraplegic people the ability to move prosthetic limbs.
According to assistant professor Arindam Basu from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), the research team has tested the chip on data recorded from animal models which showed that it could decode the brain's signal to the hand and fingers with 95 percent accuracy.
"What we have developed is a very versatile smart chip that can process data, analyse patterns and spot the difference," professor Basu said.
Currently, neural implants when embedded in the brain need to be connected by wires to an external device outside the body.
For a prosthetic patient, the neural implant is connected to a computer that decodes the brain signals so the artificial limb can move.
These external wires are not only cumbersome but the permanent openings which allow the wires into the brain increases the risk of infections.
The new chip can allow the transmission of brain data wirelessly and with high accuracy.
"The chip is about a hundred times more efficient than current processing chips on the market.
It will lead to more compact medical wearable devices, such as portable ECG monitoring devices and neural implants since we no longer need large batteries to power them," Basu explained.
Designed to be extremely power-efficient, the patented smart chip will analyse and decode the thousands of signals from the neural implants in the brain before compressing the results and sending it wirelessly to a small external receiver.
This new chip is designed to analyse data patterns and spot any abnormal or unusual patterns.
This would be extremely beneficial for the Internet of Things (IOT), where every electrical and electronic device is connected to the internet through a smart chip.
The team is also looking to expand the applications of the chip into commercial products, such as to customise it for smart home sensor networks, in collaboration with a local electronics company.
This invention and its findings were published last month in the prestigious journal, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits & Systems.