Intranet of neurons

Revolutionising neuroscience
with wireless sensor technology

At Holst Centre, we are developing wireless sensor technology that we can seamlessly integrate into our environment and our bodies. Our Lighthouse project ‘intranet of neurons’ (IoN) could just spark a revolution in neuroscience. Plus: an extremely fast and minimally invasive wireless brain computer interface could lead to major breakthroughs in research and treatment of all kinds of neurological disorders and psychiatric syndromes.

Advanced sensor technology is evolving into a whole new domain, namely that of invisible and implemented sensor technology. It concerns technology that is seamlessly integrated into our environment and the human body. By deploying these groundbreaking future technologies for various societal purposes, we want to improve the quality of life, for example in the fields of health, industry 5.0 and the environment.

Ultrafast brain-computer interface

The goal of the IoN project is to change the way neuroscientists collect and process neural data by enabling high-speed and minimally invasive wireless communication between brains and computers. This could revolutionize the development of brain computer interfaces. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are designed to restore sensory-motor or cognitive functions due to trauma or neural disorders.

The currently available BCIs, however, can only record less than 100 neurons, with a bulky and invasive skull-mounted data transfer device, which has limitations to translate to future clinical use. The new wireless brain-area telemetry network has the capacity to support tens of distributed neural sensor nodes (enabling more than 10,000 channels) simultaneously, making it at least 100 times faster than existing iBCI technology. Intranet of neurons will significantly scale up brain-wide recordings and propel research into brain-computer interfaces forward.

Understanding our brain

Now neuroscientists have to place a large device on a person's head to collect data and enable communication between our brains and computers. We are pursuing wireless data transfer through the development of brain implants smaller than 5mm in diameter, which can be placed through minimally invasive surgery. By doing this, we are creating an implantable brain-computer interface that is less invasive, energy efficient, and capable of communicating neuronal activity from multiple regions of the brain.

This new technology will provide a wealth of data. As a result, neuroscientists will better understand the brain and improve on locating and stimulating affected parts of the brain. By gaining new insights in the effects of existing treatments and medicines, we can improve future treatments. This is an example project that can have a major impact on our lives in the long run. Think of the effects it could have on understanding and ultimately curing neurological diseases and psychiatric syndromes such as Parkinson's, epilepsy, diabetes, migraines, depression, or stress related problems.

Looking for partnerships

Over the past 15 years, Holst Center has built up an enormous track record in wireless autonomous sensor technologies and flexible electronics. One of our strengths is making technology usable in close collaboration with a broad and relevant ecosystem and industry. Our plans for the coming years are ambitious to say the least. We are determined to making the IoN project a success, but we will certainly not develop the entire solution. We desperately need the Brainport high-tech ecosystem with competencies such as neuroscience, robotics, photonics and AI, as well as the collaboration with clinical parties. In addition, we need a grand vision. A project like this only succeeds through close ties with the entire ecosystem, ranging from industry, knowledge and educational institutions and governments.