Draper, an engineering firm in Cambridge, MA, has developed a tiny wireless neuromodulation device that may be small enough to implant into the interior of the cranium right against the brain.
Current brain stimulators are placed, like pacemakers, under the skin in the chest, with electric leads reaching out through the vasculature into the brain. This limits the areas of the brain where neurostimulation can be delivered and the leads can have a variety of issues that either limit their effectiveness or create additional problems for the patient.
Draper claims that its new device is about 20 times smaller than current devices with similar capabilities. Their prototype isn’t a product yet, but it has all the necessary components for advanced, multi-channel simultaneous recording and neurostimulation.
It consists of so-called Gemstones that are wirelessly powered and offer 32 channels of recording and stimulation. They can be grouped into larger devices to offer more channels, with Draper so far putting four together to get 128. The Gemstones also have processing capability, so if one detects certain brain signal signatures, it can tell others to begin delivering their stimulation signals.
Hopefully this technology will soon be put into the hands of neurosurgeons to try to address many conditions that neurostimulation may be useful for, but that so far couldn’t be properly tried for technical reasons.