A remote-controlled brain implant that can determine the path a mouse walks is being developed by scientists who hope it could one day be used to treat a range of neurological disorders in humans by wirelessly targeting therapies to specific neural networks. Matthew Stock reports.
The device attached to this mouse's head can wirelessly inject drugs deep into its brain at the click of a button. Scientists from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Illinois say it can both shine light pulses onto brain cells and deliver drugs. The remote controlled device has an ultrathin probe - smaller than the width of a human hair, which is implanted into the brain. It's powered by a tiny battery, with drugs contained in small reservoirs. Its microfluidic channels can administer drugs, while a tiny LED delivers photostimulation. Here, the mouse on the right was made to walk in circles after a drug was injected into specific brain cells. Other tests used pulses from the tiny LED to stimulate the neurons of mice engineered to respond to light. The scientists say they were able to determine the path a mouse walked when they stimulated the brain in different ways. Their implant, they say, is less damaging to brain tissue than the metal tubes, or cannulas, scientists typically use to inject drugs. They hope such a device could eventually lead to the development of more minimally invasive probes to wirelessly treat a range of neurological disorders in humans.