Five Questions With: Arto Nurmikko

A professor of engineering at Brown University talks about the development of a fully implantable and rechargeable wireless brain sensor capable of relaying real-time broadband signals. More

To continue reading this article, please do one of the following.

life sciences

Five Questions With: Arto Nurmikko

Posted 3/11/13

A team of neuroengineers based at Brown University has developed a fully implantable and rechargeable wireless brain sensor capable of relaying real-time broadband signals from up to 100 neurons in freely moving subjects.

Several copies of the novel low-power device have been performing well in animal models for more than year, a first in the brain-machine interface field.

Arto Nurmikko, a professor of engineering at Brown who oversaw the device’s invention, presented it recently at the 2013 international workshop on Clinical Brain-Machine Interface Systems in Houston.

Providence Business News asked Nurmikko to talk about the importance of the new brain sensor, which he likened to a cell phone, except that the conversation that is being sent out “is the brain talking wirelessly.”

PBN: What are the advantages of the new implantable, rechargeable wireless brain sensor and how it will be used in brain research?

NURMIKKO: Our new device enables recording neural data from a moving subject, opening up the future possibility for severely disabled persons of a much enhanced mobility – at home, in a moving vehicle, or other mobile settings.

PBN: Is this a potentially important tool to be used in the proposed brain mapping initiative? Why?

NURMIKKO: With this device, we can now begin to study brain circuits in animal models under more naturalistic conditions, where the operating environment is less restricted physically.

PBN: Who owns the intellectual property for this device? Is there a potential to develop a commercial enterprise as a result of this work in Rhode Island?

NURMIKKO: Brown University owns the principal intellectual property. As part of the overall roadmap, we are looking forward to potential licensing of the technology to medical device companies. If that can take place in Rhode Island, so much for the better.

PBN: You describe the new brain sensor as being somewhat akin to a cell phone. Could you explain the comparison?

NURMIKKO: Really it's like a cell phone only in the sense that the “brain language” has been converted to a digital, and hence robust, stream of data (lots of ones and zeros) , and it is wirelessly transmitted to a nearby receiver. That happens at very high data rate, at that, beyond what you get for example as a subscriber with Cox or Verizon on the Internet.

But an important distinction is that unlike the cell phone, we only want to transmit this type of information over a short range, on the order of meters, for any number of safety and security-related reasons.

PBN: Will the new sensor have any impact on the NIH Connectome initiative now underway to study the brain's wiring?

NURMIKKO: The Connectome project is more focused on mapping the brain structure, or architecture, while the brain activity map project includes goals of understanding how such structures actually process information as functioning neural “computers.”

PBN Hosted

Join PBN for the best networking event and party of the winter - January 15, 2015 - the Book of Lists Party at the Providence Public Library. Reserve your spot by December 31st and get a holiday gift from PBN!
  • Best Places to Work
    Enrollment is now open for the 7th annual Best Places to Work program. Winners w ...
  • Manufacturing Awards
    Applications are now being accepted for the 2nd Annual Manufacturing Awards. Dea ...
Purchase Data
Book of Lists
Book of Lists cover
PBN's annual Book of Lists has been an essential resource for the local business community for almost 30 years. The Book of Lists features a wealth of company rankings from a variety of fields and industries, including banking, health care, real estate, law, hospitality, education, not-for-profits, technology and many more.
Data icons
Data can be purchased as single lists, in either Excel or PDF format; the entire database of the published book, in Excel format; or a printed copy of the Book of Lists.
  • Purchase an e-File of a single list
  • Purchase an e-File of the entire Book of Lists database
  • Purchase a printed copy of the Book of Lists
    Latest News