In the anterior cingulate cortex, an electrode array monitors and decodes pain signals, while an optogenetic device activates pyramidal neurons in the prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex to offer pain relief.
New York University School of Medicine researchers have developed a brain implant that can detect pain signals in real time and administer pain-relieving stimulation in bursts. The device is still in its early stages of development, but a new proof of concept research shows it to be effective in rodent models. The gap between science fiction and reality in the world of brain implants is still pretty large. Apart from a few promising human trials in which paraplegic people with implants regained their sense of touch or controlled computers with their minds, most research in the field is still in its early stages.
Pigs transmitting brain activity and monkeys playing Pong have both been used in animal testing to demonstrate incremental technological advancements. An edge has now been established which can detect pain signals in one region of the brain and instantaneously respond with stimulation to alternative part of the brain that is aimed to reduce the pain.
A closed-loop brain-machine interface is the name given to the system. The system has previously been used to identify and treat epileptic seizures, but this is the first time it has been used to relieve pain. This produces a real-time neurofeedback loop that suppresses pain as it occurs.
The automated aspect of the system, decreases the possibility of overuse and tolerance because people have no influence over pain relief activation. Furthermore, because the system focuses on reducing pain processing in the brain, it shouldn't be linked to the opioid reward regions, which have been linked to addiction issues.
The technology correctly detected pain signals 80 percent of the time in rodent experiments, according to the researchers. This encompassed a wide range of pain inputs, including mechanical, thermal, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain. It's also unavoidable that general brain stimulation of specific regions has non-specific effects that go beyond pain relief. In order for this to be beneficial in humans, researchers will need to increase the technology's specificity. Thus, the study's proposed experimental equipment communicates with two brain areas.