It has been a while since the concept of neural dust was first proposed by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Since then, the engineers have published multiple papers on the device. In fact, they have just reported data on device validation and neural activity recorded from the peripheral nervous system of rats.
The neural dust mote is now a 1-millimeter cube with an on-board piezoelectric crystal. The passive device is powered through ultrasound, and neural activity is recorded using an interrogation protocol. The protocol includes six 540-ns pulses every 100 microseconds. The pulses hit the device and then reflect back towards the transducer. This backscatter data can then be decoded to separate the noise and interference from the actual neural signal.
The research team is now looking into ways of making the device even smaller. Because of how small the devices already are, they can easily interface with single nerve axons and provide signal resolutions that were previously unattainable. Furthermore, because the devices have no wires, unwanted movement of electrodes and infections can be avoided.
The eventual goal for neural dust is to not only be used in the brain, but also to be used in other parts of the body where continuous monitoring can be beneficial such as detecting oxygen or hormone levels.
Here’s a short Berkeley video showing off the neural dust implant:
Press release: Sprinklings of Neural Dust Opens Doors to Electroceuticals…