The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

A Gentler Defibrillator Jolt

Researchers come up with a low-energy pulse sequence to restart hearts and make implants last longer

3 min read

13 July 2011—Watch any TV medical drama and you’ll see a defibrillator in action. During tense moments, defibrillators bring patients back from the brink of death with a dramatic shock. But what you don’t see on TV is the cell membrane, muscle, and skin damage that a defibrillator’s shock can cause. Even implanted defibrillators are painful to patients and damaging to tissue. But gentler devices may be on the way. A research team led by Stefan Luther of the Max Planck Institute and Flavio Fenton of Cornell University has found a new approach that greatly reduces the intensity of defibrillating shocks.

A defibrillator delivers a dose of electrical energy to the heart to fix rapid, irregular, and uncoordinated contractions, which are potentially fatal. This dose resets the difference in voltage between the interior and exterior of the cells in the muscle—a process known as depolarization. A standard defibrillation device uses a single high-energy shock to accomplish this feat, which stops any arrhythmia and reestablishes normal rhythm. "No one knows exactly why, but it requires a voltage gradient of about 5 volts per centimeter to terminate electrical turbulence in the heart, which can require up to 350 joules if delivered as one shock," says Fenton.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
Vertical
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
DarkGray

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}