Chan Zuckerberg Biohub funds research into brain-machine interfaces

Researchers affiliated with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub are testing a brain implant that, according to a recent study, can disrupt physical movements in primates, according to Business Insider.

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is a nonprofit research center and collaborative effort between UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and Stanford (Calif.) University funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, MD. The CZ Biohub aims to support research into new types of medical devices that "push boundaries," according to the program's president.

"We want people to do the thing that's crazy, the thing that other people wouldn't try," Joseph DeRisi, PhD, co-president of the CZ Biohub and a biophysics professor at UC San Francisco, told Business Insider.

Here are four notes on the recent research into brain implants:

1. In a study published in Nature on Dec. 31, researchers outlined how they used a wireless implantable brain device — dubbed the "Wand" — to modify the physical movements of a monkey in real-time, according to Business Insider. One of the researchers is Rikky Muller, PhD, a professor of computer science and engineering at UC Berkeley and an investigator with the CZ Biohub.

2. Researchers implanted 128 electrodes in the monkey's brain, which allowed them to sense when the primate was about to perform a trained behavior — in this case, moving a computer cursor to a target on a screen using a joystick. The Wand device could deduce when the monkey was about to move the joystick, and stop that movement with an electric signal sent to its brain, according to Business Insider.

3. The Wand device potentially could be used to help treat a range of conditions that affect movement, such as epilepsy or spinal-cord injuries. For example, the brain-machine interface could be used as a form of therapy to stop a seizure as it starts. "Right now we can take a specific motor function, sense that it's happening, and disrupt it," Dr. Muller said.

4. The paper is co-authored by a team of researchers from UC Berkeley and medical-device startup Cortera. Dr. Muller is the co-founder and chair of the board of Cortera.

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