To test the device, Dr. Wang and his colleagues implanted it in rats, targeting regions of the brain associated with pain regulation. One part of the device monitored electrical signals for signs of pain while another part delivered current to disrupt the pain signaling. When the device was activated by a computer, the rats withdrew their paws 40 percent more slowly from a sudden noxious stimulus than when the device was inactive.
The study, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, is the first to test a brain implant that can detect and treat pain in real time. “Our findings show that this implant offers an effective strategy for pain therapy, even in cases where symptoms are traditionally difficult to pinpoint or manage,” says Dr. Wang, director of NYU Langone’s Interdisciplinary Pain Research Program.