Mapping the Human Brain with Neural Dust
Kyle Maxey posted on July 23, 2013 |

Researchers are looking for new ways to map the neuro-electrical interactions that define the way we interact with the world. While MRIs have been the defacto standard, a new paper published by Berkeley’s Dongjin Seo puts forth a radical new way of looking into our brains.

Seo believes the brain could be mapped with incredible resolution if tiny sensors, less than a 100 micrometers in diameter, could be injected into the human brain.  Called “neural dust,” these bio-neutral, polymer encased particles would contain a miniature CMOS sensor that would measure the electrical signals being fired throughout the brain. To power each particle, Seo says, each speck of “dust” would have piezoelectric properties, powering itself by means of ultrasound pressure.

But where would this ultrasound pressure come from? Well, Berkeley researchers say that each “neural dust” particle would communicate any electric signals it detects via ultrasound, a more efficient and safer alternative to sending subdural signals via electromagnetic waves.

To hoover up all of the information the neural dust is distributing, a subdural transceiver would act as a way station, collecting information and beaming it wirelessly to an external device that rests on the scalp. Once data reaches the external mechanism it would be processed and transmitted to any location the wearer desired.

In its initial configuration, this technology would be used to upgrade and replace MRI machines.  However, it doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to envision “neural dust” as the key to man-machine interfaces. Granted, that’s all wild speculation, and a number of hurdles need to be overcome before Dongjin Seo’s brain interface becomes a reality, but it’s still really cool that someone is working on making the singularity a reality.

Images Courtesy of Arxiv

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