2007 NSTI Nanotechnology Conference and Trade Show - Nanotech 2007 - 10th Annual

Balance On-a-Chip: An Electronic Prosthesis Mimicking the Dynamic Vestibular Function

A.M. Shkel
University of California Irvin, US

Keywords:
MEMS, sensing

Abstract:
Sensory prostheses to artificially replace lost sensory function for a number of sensory systems are currently under investigation. For example, cochlear implants use electrical stimulation to restore hearing and provide some relief for patients suffering profound sensorineural hearing loss. Using similar principles, a vestibular prosthesis could provide head orientation information to the nervous system for patients suffering from peripheral vestibular disorders. This talk presents the latest developments of the group. We will introduce a functional architecture, system level design, and electronic evaluation of a unilateral vestibular prosthesis. The sensing unit of the prosthesis is a custom-designed one-axis microelectromechanical system (MEMS) gyroscope. Similar to the natural semicircular canal, the MEMS gyroscope senses angular motion of the head and generates voltages proportional to the corresponding angular acceleration. The voltage is then converted into electric current pulses according to the physiological data relating angular acceleration to the spike count in the vestibular nerve. The current pulses can be delivered to stimulate the corresponding vestibular nerve branch. We have implemented analog and digital versions of the unilateral prosthesis. The comparative analysis of these implementations will be discussed. Electronic properties of the vestibular prosthesis prototype have been systematically evaluated and found to meet the design specifications. A unique feature of the present vestibular implant prototype is the scalability: the sensing unit, pulse generator, and the current source can be potentially implemented on a single chip using integrated MEMS technology.

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