Adaptive, Wireless Microchiplet Network for Large Scale Cortical Sensing and Stimulation

Wireless Network of Neural Implants for Brain-Machine Interfaces

The field of brain-machine interfaces has advanced significantly over the past two decades, especially in its successful transition into human clinical trials. This progress has relied largely on wired, invasive sensors for the acquisition of neural data with high spatial and temporal resolution. Our invention, which represents the first completely wireless network of sensors in neural application, consists of ensembles of implantable, sub-millimeter, individually addressable microchips, which we term “neurograins”.
Market Opportunity
Wireless, fully implantable neural interface technologies have been the holy grail of brain-computer interfaces, as the physical constraints of current brain-machine interfaces, which rely on microelectrode technologies, make them challenging to scale beyond several hundred channels. There is also a need to fill the technological gap between limited single-cell sensing, which can be too narrow, and global brain imaging, which can be too broad.
Innovation and Meaningful Advantages
Our invention provides wireless electronic access to a brain’s microcircuits at unprecedented level of scale and resolution. It consists of a network of intracranial implants linked wirelessly to a compact external skin patch radio frequency (RF) transceiver and data-processing hub. By allowing untethered recording of large numbers of electrodes across broad spatially distributed networks, it offers a new set of tools for advancing fundamental and applied brain science.

Scaling and implantability are the two primary drivers of our system. Our untethered microelectronic neurograins form a huge network of individual neural interfacing nodes in the cortex for active neural recording and electrical microstimulation. The system enables bidirectional communication and control at the individual neurograin level. A neurograin of about 100 microns in size integrates a radio frequency (RF) power-harnessing circuit, neural-sensing microelectronics, and sophisticated telecommunications at the cutting-edge of complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology. It is hermetically sealed when implanted for long-term reliability. External electronics on a skin patch enable wireless powering, real-time readout of neural data, and write-in of neural modulation on a timescale of less than 1 millisecond with a capability to scale up to 770 spatially distributed neurograins.

Commercial Development: Current State and Next Steps
We have validated the performance of our system in ex vivo brain slices and in vivo rat models. We are now focused on incorporating time-division multiple access (TDMA) synchronization through the use of downlink telemetry, testing of a stimulating neurograin application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), and integration of a neurocomputational processor to yield next-generation implantable/wearable neural interfaces with thousands of sensor nodes.

Collaboration Opportunity
We are interested in exploring 1) startup opportunities with investors in the medical device space; 2) research collaborations with leading medical device or biotech companies; and 3) licensing opportunities with medical device or biotech companies. 

Principal Investigator
Arto V. Nurmikko, PhD
L. Herbert Ballou University Professor of Engineering
Professor of Physics, Brown University

IP Information
US20200367749A1 pending; Priority Date May 20, 2019
17/260,903 pending; Priority Date July 17, 2018

Lee J, Leung V, Lee A-H, Huang J, Asbeck P, Mercier PP, Shellhammer S, Larson L, Laiwalla F, Nurmikko A. Wireless Ensemble of Sub-mm Microimplants Communicating Near 1 GHz in a Neural Application. bioRxiv (preprint). Posted 2020 Sept 14.


Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Arto Nurmikko
Lawrence Larson
Farah Laiwalla
Peter Asbeck
Ramesh Rao
Vincent Leung
Patrick Mercier
Jihun Lee
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