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Engineers to Implant Antivertigo Device

Vestibular prosthesis is a pacemaker for the inner ear

3 min read

20 October 2010—Tomorrow, 21 October, a surgeon will attempt to fight debilitating vertigo by rewiring the body's balance center. Jay Rubinstein, a surgeon and biomedical engineer at the University of Washington, in Seattle, will insert a "vestibular prosthesis" inside his patient's head, weaving electrode arrays into the depths of the inner ear. He hopes that pulses from these electrodes will stop vomit-inducing dizziness caused by Ménière's disease.

"When a Ménière's attack occurs, you basically have to lie down and curl up into a ball," Rubinstein says. "It's not very conducive to a productive existence if these are happening once a week." For most, diet changes and diuretics can stop the attacks by lowering inner ear pressure, but about 15 percent of patients require surgery to decrease the sensitivity of the inner ear—and the most severe cases require disconnecting nerves to the inner ear altogether.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

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

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

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.

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