November 1, 2022

Researcher Combines AI and Microelectronics to Create Neural Implants that Fight Brain Disorders

Article published by MedicalXpress

Neural implants can help treat brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy by directly modulating abnormal activities—and the University of Toronto’s Xilin Liu is working with microelectronics and artificial intelligence to make this emerging technology both safer and smarter.

“Neurons talk to each other in part via electrical signals, and a therapeutic neural implant produces electrical stimulation—like a pacemaker for the brain,” says Liu, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “In cases of tremors or seizures, the stimulation attempts to restore the neurons to a normal condition.

“It’s as if the stimulus turns the neural networks off and on—almost like restarting a computer, though it’s definitely not that simple. Scientists don’t fully understand how it works yet.”

Liu’s team integrates neural implants into miniature silicon chips via the same process for fabricating chips used in today’s computers and smartphones. This technology, referred to as CMOS for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, allows them to reduce the device’s physical dimensions and power consumption, thus minimizing the risks associated with the implant’s initial surgical procedure and long-term use.