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A Look at Next-Gen Tech: Neurostimulation and Cognitive Technology

When most people today think of the technology that will shape our world for the next few decades, deep technology, such as neurostimulation or cognitive technology rarely get mentioned. The fact of the matter is, in the case of neurostimulation, this type of innovation has been in development by scientists and researchers globally since before the 1980s, while cognitive technology is already being embraced today by healthcare professionals to revolutionize the healthcare system and the future of patient care.

In this article, Xeraya explores neurostimulation and takes a closer look at cognitive technology and its potential applications.

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An infographic by the World Health Organization in 2021 highlighted that 1 billion people need assistive technology to survive today, but only 1 in 10 people have access to it. Source: Twitter.



According to the National Institutes of Health, we began exploring the potential of neurostimulation in 1950s and 1960s, with scientists first realizing that electric stimulation might simulate hearing. Going by this theory, surgeons attempted to repair a facial nerve injury by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve, which caused their patient to perceive sounds.

However, progress in this area would be slow for the next few decades. Although the electrical properties of the nervous system had been discovered over a hundred years before, it had not been harnessed for treatments. This resulted in relatively rudimental solutions being produced with the use of neurotechnology. For example, the first cochlear implants in the 1970s could only serve to enhance a patient’s awareness of their surroundings and help them to lip-read, while in the realm of treatments for spinal injuries, the use of neurotechnology was focused on limiting further damage shortly after injury, rather than improving the function of the spinal cord over a longer term.

Thankfully, the medical researchers of today have not given up on harnessing the powerful benefits of using neurotechnology and neurostimulation. In fact, patients today can receive treatment for many types of nerve damage that involve electrically stimulating the nervous system, and the cochlear implants have evolved to enable deaf people to hear and understand speech. Beyond these two use cases, neurostimulation is even believed to provide the promise of restoring vision and movement for patients who are paralyzed or have suffered traumatic injuries.

Use Cases in Healthcare

As mentioned above, neurostimulation technologies have long been recognized as the possible answer to a host of human conditions; as tricky as it may be to glean the advantages of using neurostimulation in treatments, we are making progress with key health concerns, here are two use cases:

Deep Brain Stimulation

With over 100,000 people with Parkinson’s having received deep brain stimulation (DBS) implants to date, it’s clear that this is one health challenge that is on the path to being resolved. DBS implants have helped these patients reduce disease symptoms and are even said to be more effective than drug therapy, which can involve unpleasant side effects. Additionally, patients with these implants can experience the positive effects for over a decade or more. In terms of future solutions, DBS has been granted an FDA Humanitarian Device Exemption to treat obsessive compulsive disorder and is currently being tested by researchers looking for ways to tackle other conditions, such as treatment-resistant depression, and dementia.

Cognitive Technology

In the human sense of the word, cognition refers to our ability to learn from past experiences, mistakes, and triumphs. It is essentially what makes us move forward in life and serves as our inner compass. When paired with technology, it is about developing machines and solutions that can mimic this compass and help them think, analyze, and make decisions.

The principles and characteristics of cognitive technology can be summarized as below:

1.     Interpretation: The machine can understand the data received from various sensors and uses other technology such as computer vision and natural language processing to understand this data.

2.     Learning: The machine can mimic human behavior and learn new things while also iterating multiple times to make correlations and patterns in the data.

3.     Prediction: The machine can predict problems and simultaneously learn from past mistakes, which improves its efficiency. This component uses technology like deep learning, machine learning, and statistical reinforcement learning to detect anomalies and patterns and predict future issues.

What are the advantages of using cognitive technology? In the healthcare space, it could be used to spur greater efficiency and more reliability in healthcare systems, alongside furthering the promise of e-medicine and tele-medicine, two types of sectors that have experienced considerable growth during the pandemic and post-pandemic years. Additionally, it can be used to develop ways to digitally communicate between patients and health professionals and can serve as the backbone of a system that is aimed at proactively protecting and monitoring patients 24/7.

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Interestingly, a study from Pew Research found that Americans are relatively worried about the development of cognitive technologies and are more supportive of AI-focused innovation. Source: Pew Research Center.

Use Cases in Healthcare


In 2019, one of the world’s most infamous people, Elon Musk, did a live presentation of what his company, Neuralink, has been up to in the fields of both cognitive technology and neurostimulation. The inventor’s goal? To create a brain implant that will enable people to control computers, prosthetics, and other medical devices with just their thoughts.

To do this, Neuralink essentially has been working to record electrical brain activity, decode it, and translate it into computer commands. Additionally, some systems input sensory stimulation into the brain, which can be helpful for several use cases, including controlling a prosthetic.

If what Musk presented is verified, Neuralink has made impressive progress in the field of BCI hardware. He reported that Neuralink’s scientists have developed an array of 3000 electrodes on flexible threads that are able to be implanted in a rat’s brain. While previous researchers have designed this sort of implants before, they have only been able to safely implant hundreds of electrodes.

The question now is how the recording of 3000 neurons can help in healthcare. If the company’s objective of creating an implant to control medical devices is to be achieved, Neuralink’s scientists must find a way to reliably provide sensory feedback to the brain in the form of electrical stimulation; currently, recording brain activity and stimulating concurrently has proven difficult for other researchers, as the signals can interfere with each other.

To date, we are still waiting to see these findings published in a peer-reviewed journal; however, the company has indeed made some interesting advancements.


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