From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : What neuroprosthetics is
Mains level : Neuro modulation and breakthroughs in health sector
A recent medical trial restored partial sight to six blind people via an implant that transmits video images directly to the brain. The device used was called Orion, which feeds images from a camera directly to the brain.
“Cognitive neuroprosthetics” are devices that directly interface with the brain to improve memory, attention, emotion and much more.
- Current neuromodulation systems need surgical implantation of bulky components with limited battery life.
- Batteries impact an intervention’s cost and lifetime, a device’s size and weight, the need for repeat surgeries and problems of tissue-heating and performance compromises. This is due to the relatively high power consumption of the electronics for a given performance requirement.
- The National Institutes of Health in the US opines that pacemaker batteries last between 5-15 years, but their average lifespan is 6-7 years; a doctor has to operate again after about 7 years to replace either the battery or the pacemaker itself.
- A flexible chip-type implant that harnesses glucose present in the body and converts it into electrical energy that can power a neurological implant.
- The problem of battery size can be tackled by reducing the power consumption and operating the electronics near fundamental levels of physics.
- Achieving a higher number of channels, better signal-to-noise ratio, and improved flexibility and robustness while working at ultra-low power can significantly lower implant sizes without sacrificing performance.
- Ultra-low-power semiconductors to generate chipsets that have been validated in lab and animal trials.
Future of neuromodulation
- Spinal cord stimulation and deep brain stimulation are major target applications.
- Neuromodulation is the most lucrative sector in the European neurological device market. In India, it is estimated that about 30 million people suffer from various forms of neurological diseases and the average prevalence rate is as high as 2,394 patients per 100,000 of the population.
- Current neuromodulation devices cost between $10,000 and $40,000, putting them out of reach for many Indians.