For many years scientists have been able to stimulate certain brain regions to treat various disorders, including depression and Parkinson’s disease. This treatment method is often imprecise and over-stimulation of the brain can have damaging effects. A recent study of deep brain stimulation therapy in patients with Parkinson’s disease found that patients with the brain stimulation had better quality of life. These patients were also more likely to experience an adverse event, such as an infection, from the treatment.
Now researchers are creating a computer chip that stimulates the brain to provide the appropriate amount of stimulation. Soon, the chip will be tested for its ability to restore brain functioning after traumatic brain injury or stroke.
The Rehabilitation Nano Chip, or ReNaChip, is created using electrodes implanted into diseased areas of the brain. Then, algorithms are developed to stimulate healthy activity in these areas. Next, the chip is hooked up to electrodes, which are implanted in the brain. As the chip becomes smaller, it could potentially be implanted just beneath the skin, like a pacemaker for the brain.
Currently, the chips are being tested in animal models to see if they can rehabilitate lost motor-learning functions. Not long ago computer chips in the brain were found in science fiction, but soon the ReNaChip may provide a bionic replacement for brain function that has been lost.