Moder brain-computer interfaces allow neuroscientists to study how brains operate and neurosurgeons are already trying out these devices to help severely disabled people regain some of their independence. Nevertheless, these brain implants are normally tethered to an external computer using wires because the amount of data they generate can be quite challenging for wireless transmission. An international team of researchers headed by a group at Brown University has developed a brain-computer interface capable of transmitting its readings to an external receiver at up to 200 megabits per second. This is on the order of what 802.11n wireless routers can deliver, but the new device does it using much less power. The transmitter actually remains outside the body, attached to the skull and connected via a small port to the implanted neurosensor. The receiver has to be kept within a few steps of the transmitter to obtain a strong signal, but this limitation is not an issue in most situation.
The researchers tested the system in animal models, demonstrating that it is capable of continuous high-rate data transmission using a single AA battery for more than 48 hours. It provides 100 discrete channels of data, weighs only 41 grams, and measures 5 cm on its longest side.
The researchers hope that the new capability will allow scientists to perform more complicated animal studies and that severely paralyzed people will be able to use it during daily activities to make their lives easier.
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