Ultrasonic Wireless ‘Neural Dust’ Sensors For Medical Monitoring

Ultrasonic wireless ‘neural dust’ sensors monitor nerves and muscles in real time.


(Ultrasonic wireless sensors)

University of California, Berkeley engineers have designed and built millimeter-scale device wireless, batteryless “neural dust” sensors and implanted them in muscles and peripheral nerves of rats to make in vivo electrophysiological recordings.

The new technology opens the door to “electroceuticals” — bioelectronic methods to monitor and record wireless electromyogram (EMG) signals from muscle membranes and electroneurogram (ENG) signals from local neuron electrical activity, and to stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, and treat disorders such as epilepsy.

The technology could also improve neural control of prosthetics (allowing a paraplegic to control a computer or a robotic arm, for example) by stimulating nerves and muscles directly, instead of requiring implanted wires.

The neural-dust sensors use ultrasound technology to both power the sensors and read out measurements. Ultrasound is already well-developed for hospital use and can penetrate nearly anywhere in the body, unlike radio waves.

Vernon Vinge described something similar for environmental use in his 1999 novel A Deepness In The Sky - he called them dustmotes:

...these dustmotes already had sensors and independence built in. They weren't an embedded component...

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