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Brain-Computer Interfaces Might Be Revolutionized With Neural Probes That Mimic Real Neurons

One of the best methods of studying the mechanisms of a brain is through neural probes. In case of therapeutic applications, neural probes can be used as well. Paralyzed people can regain function and even locked- in patients might soon be able to communicate with the rest of the world through the aid of brain- computer interfaces. In the recent times, these underlying technologies have gone through immense advancement including signal processing and interpretation; however the biggest obstruction that still stands in the way are the very probes that make contact with the brain.

Anything that invades the space of the brain is immediately attacked by it which most commonly leads to inflammation. Furthermore, neurons tend to die and the neural probes lose their ability to function. In order to address this limitation, neural probes that mimic neurons almost exactly, duping the brain into accepting them as native, instead of being defensive and attacking them; have been developed by the researchers at Harvard University. In other words, the university says that the researchers have ldquo;blurred the line between human and machinerdquo;.

Not just the subcellular structure of the real neurons is replicated by the bioinspired probes, but even their mechanical characteristics are imitated. The same shape, size, and pliability are possessed by the probes with regard to the healthy neurons found in the brain. 3D imaging, histology and electrophysiology techniques have confirmed that the exactness seems to prevent the immune system from reacting to the new probes.

Given these facts, it might soon be possible for patients to benefit from this technology over extended periods of time without having to suffer from serious side effects once the new neural probes are integrated with existing brain- computer interfaces.

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Last Updated: 20-Mar-2019