Research indicates that a brain implant that uses the body's skin like a conductor to wirelessly transmit the brain's neural signals to control a computer, may eventually be used to reactivate paralysed limbs.
The University of Michigan developed the implant called the BioBolt, and unlike other neural interface technologies that establish a connection from the brain to an external device such as a computer, it's minimally invasive and low power.
BioBolt does not penetrate the cortex and is completely covered by the skin to greatly reduce risk of infection, principal investigator Euisik Yoon, professor in the U-M College of Engineering, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said.
Researchers believe it's a critical step toward the Holy Grail of brain-computer interfacing: allowing a paralysed person to "think" a movement.
Kensall Wise, the William Gould Dow Distinguished University professor emeritus in engineering, explained that currently, the skull must remain open while neural implants are in the head, which makes using them in a patient's daily life unrealistic.
The ultimate goal is to be able to reactivate paralysed limbs, by picking the neural signals from the brain cortex and transmitting those signals directly to muscles, said Wise.
Another promising application for the BioBolt is controlling epilepsy, and diagnosing certain diseases like Parkinson's.