Hope on Quadraplegic's Horizon

BioBolt a brain implant to revitalize paralyzed limbs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) "I think, therefore I am" is a philosophical proof that one's mind exists. Now that it's established one's mind exists, can it be harnessed to provide movement to the paralyzed?

Engineers at the University of Michigan have developed a brain implant which uses a person's skin to transmit neural signals to operate a computer. It is hoped that eventually this technology will use muscles to send neural signals to reboot paralyzed limbs.

"The BioBolt is on the cutting edge of paralysis research."

Principal investigator Euisik Yoon, a professor in the University of Michigan College of Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science reports that this implant is called the BioBolt, which is unlike other neural interface technologies connecting a computer to the brain because it is significantly less invasive and uses low power.

Kendall Wise, the William Gould Dow Distinguished University Professor Emeritus in Engineering aspires to have the device enable paralysis victims' movement by picking up neural signals from the brain and sending those signals to the muscles.

Two other applications are thought to be possible by the researchers: controlling epilepsy and diagnosing diseases like Parkinson's disease. These applications are years away but compelling applications nonetheless.

Yoon explains that the BioBolt would be implanted in the skull beneath the skin and its film of microcircuits would sit on the brain. These microcircuits are like microphones that can listen to the firing neurons and then associate them to a specific brain command.

Those signals are amplified and filtered by the BioBolt and then turned into digital signals which are sent via the skin to a computer.

One hurdle all current brain interfaces must get over is the high level of power required for transmitting data wirelessly from the brain to an outside source. BioBolt keeps the power consumption low by using the skin as the transmitter.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 17, 2011
Last Updated:
June 18, 2011