Tiny Implants Combat Chronic Pain

Spinal pacemakers mask discomfort from nerve damage

3 min read

Back in 2006, Adam Hammond, a U.S. Army skydiver, experienced every jumper’s worst ­nightmare when his parachute failed to deploy. ”I was basically in free fall,” Hammond says of his ­accident. ”When I hit the ground, my ­helmet shattered and my shoes flew off my feet.” Hammond was completely ­immobilized by chronic pain for two years. Earlier this year he received an implanted device that electrically ­stimulates his ­spinal cord. Now, instead of ­feeling a ­stabbing pain in his tailbone, he ­experiences just a tingling sensation. ”My life has done a complete 180,” he says.

Smaller, longer-lasting implants are broadening the appeal of pain ­management devices for patients who have not been well served by ­conventional medications. With smaller sizes, surgeons have more flexibility with where to place the implant. And with better techniques for transferring and storing energy, the implants can last ­longer and be placed deeper in the body, which increases their cosmetic appeal.

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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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