Neuralink rival sets brain chip record with 4,096 electrodes in human brain

Enlarge / Each of Precision’s microelectrode arrays consists of 1,024 electrodes ranging in diameter from 50 to 380 microns, connected to a custom hardware interface.

Brain-computer interface company Precision Neuroscience says it has set a new world record for the number of neural stimulation electrodes placed in the brain of a living human being: 4,096, surpassing the previous record of 2,048 set last year, according to a company announcement. on Tuesday.

The high density of electrodes allows neuroscientists to map the activity of neurons with unprecedented resolution, which will ultimately help them better decode thoughts into intended actions.

Precision, like many of its rivals, has a preliminary goal of using its brain-computer interface (BCI) to restore speech and movement in patients, particularly those who have suffered a stroke or spinal cord injury. But Precision stands out from its competitors due to a notable spinoff of one of the most prominent BCI companies, Neuralink, owned by controversial billionaire Elon Musk.

Precision was co-founded by neurosurgeon and engineer Ben Rapoport, who also co-founded Neuralink in 2016. Rapoport later left the company and, in 2021, founded rival Precision with three colleagues, two of whom had also been involved with Link. neuronal.

In a May 3 episode of The Wall Street Journal’s The Future of Everything podcast, Rapoport suggested he left Neuralink over safety concerns for the company’s more invasive BCI implants.

To move neural interfaces from the world of science to the world of medicine, “safety is paramount,” Rapoport said. “For a medical device, safety often means minimal invasiveness,” he added. Rapoport noted that in the early days of BCI development, including the use of the Utah Array, “there was a notion that to extract information-rich data from the brain, it was necessary to penetrate the brain with small needle-like electrodes.” he said. “And they have the drawback of causing a certain amount of brain damage when inserted into the brain. I felt it was possible to extract information-rich data from the brain without damaging it.” Precision was formed with that philosophy in mind: minimal invasiveness, scalability and security, he said.

Neuralink’s current BCI device contains 1,024 electrodes across 64 wires thinner than a hair that a surgical robot implants into the brain. In the first patient to receive an implant, the wires were inserted 3 to 5 mm into the brain tissue. But 85 percent of those wires retracted from the patient’s brain in the weeks after surgery, and some of the electrodes turned off due to displacement. Neuralink reportedly plans to implant the leads deeper (8 mm) in its second patient. The Food and Drug Administration has reportedly given the green light to that surgery. Meanwhile, the Utah Array can penetrate up to 1.5 mm into the brain.

Precision’s device does not penetrate the brain at all, but sits on top of it. The device contains at least a yellow film, said to be one-fifth the thickness of a human hair, containing 1,024 electrodes embedded in a lattice pattern. The device is modular, allowing multiple movies to be added to each device. The films can be slipped over the brain using minimally invasive surgery that requires cutting only a thin slit in the skull, through which the yellow ribbon-like device can be slid, according to Precision. The film then adapts to the surface of the brain. The processing unit that collects data from the electrodes is designed to sit between the skull and the scalp. If the implant needs to be removed, the film is designed to slide off the brain without causing damage.

In April, a neurosurgery team at Mount Sinai Health System placed one of Precision’s devices containing four electrode-containing films (a total of 4,096 electrodes) into the brain of a patient undergoing surgery to remove a tumor. benign brain. While the patient slept with his skull open, Precision researchers used their four electrode arrays to successfully record detailed neural activity from an area of ​​approximately 8 square centimeters of the brain.

“This record is a significant step into a new era,” Rapoport said in a news release Tuesday. “The ability to capture cortical information of this magnitude and scale could allow us to understand the brain in a much deeper way.”

The implant test marks the 14th time Precision has placed its device in a human brain, according to CNBC, which was present at the surgery in New York. Precision says it hopes to have its first device on the commercial market in 2025.

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