Broadcasting Brain Waves

Photograph of old-fashioned radio

I grew up with Dick Tracy, and I always wanted a two-way radio watch. I have also had  patients who thought their brain waves were being monitored by governmental agencies.

Now reality extends science and the paranoid ideas of unfortunate patients. In the April 4, 2014 issue of Science, Xu et al published an elegant article on making a wearable system of thin electronic modules in a highly visco-elastic polymer that adapts to and follows the changes in skin’s movement, temperature, and physical properties. The kit includes a radio that can send electrical waves (e.g., electrocardiograms, electroencephalograms) from the body. Engineers will love the technical  wizardry; physiologists, clinicians, and exercise physiologists will be excited about the ability to get real-time electrical readings from the brain, muscles, and the eyes.

No doubt in a back  room someone will be working on realtime functional nuclear magnetic images to broadcast from a skin radio. . . . Will security agencies be monitoring body waves as well?

As important as the science is the organization of the groups reporting these findings.

Eighteen authors — not that exceptional today, especially considering the variety of scientific disciplines involved for this project.

Teams from three countries:  People’s Republic of China, Republic of Korea, and the US, with funding from at least two of those nations.

This model and mode  of collaborative science will become more the norm as science research  progresses beyond single disciplines. This is our brave new world. Dick Tracy would be amazed and impressed.



Xu S, Zhang Y, Jia L, et al.  Soft Microfluidic Assemblies of Sensors, Circuits, and Radios for the Skin.  Science 344:70-74 doi:10.1126/science.1250169

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