Labs are currently competing to develop brain implants. Advances in cognitive neuroscience and brain imaging technologies have started to provide us with the ability to interface directly with the human brain.
Researchers have used these technologies to build brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), communication systems that do not depend on the brain’s normal output pathways of peripheral nerves and muscles. In these systems, users explicitly manipulate their brain activity instead of using motor movements to produce signals that can be used to control computers or communication devices.
Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researchers explore possibilities that allow computers to use as many sensory channels as possible. Researchers can infer information about user state and intent by observing their physiology, behavior, or the environment in which they operate. Using this information, systems can dynamically adapt themselves in order to support the user in the task at hand.
BrainGate develops BCIs known as Utah arrays — aimed at restoring mobility to people who have experienced paralysis, neurodegenerative disease, or limb loss. The baby aspirin sized Utah arrays are surgically implanted in the brain’s motor cortex. BCIs record neural activity and translate it to command external actions like sending text messages, purchasing products online, and moving robotic arms to stack blocks. This technology could have non-medical applications as well: For example, people could control devices or drive their cars using their brains.
BCI can enable people with paralysis to directly operate an off-the-shelf tablet device just by thinking about making cursor movements and clicks. Three clinical trial participants with tetraplegia, using BrainGate BCI were able to navigate through commonly used tablet programs, including email, chat, music-streaming and video-sharing apps. They messaged with family and others. Similar technologies have shown that the device can enable people to move robotic arms or to regain control of their own limbs, despite having lost motor abilities from illness or injury.
Two participants had ALS, a progressive disease affecting the nerves in the brain and spine that control movement. The third participant was paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.. They were able to make up to 22 point-and-click selections per minute while using a variety of apps. In text apps, they could type up to 30 effective characters per minute using standard email and text interfaces. One of the participants really wanted to play music again. To see her play on a digital keyboard was fantastic.
Elon Musk’s Neuralink is developing an implantable wireless system. The goal is to implant devices in paralyzed humans, allowing them to control phones or computers. The first big advance is flexible threads, 4 to 6 μm in width, considerably thinner than a human hair. The system could include as many as 3,072 electrodes per array distributed across 96 threads. Musk wants to create technology that allows a “merging with AI.” Paralyzed people with brain implants have brought objects into focus and moved robotic arms in labs, as part of scientific research.
Paradromics has created a nickel-sized device implanted in the brain and exchanges data with a computer to help treat chronic and severe mental disorders like schizophrenia. For example, a person who is blind does not have visual data coming into the brain. Paradromics’ neuro-prosthetic device uses ultra-high broadband communication links with the brain with the goal of restoring lost functionality like eyesight. Paradromics’ technology could help treat diseases like ALS or addiction, and related mental illness disrupting a massive $100 billion pharmaceutical industry.
This really is brain surgery.
The doctor said I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that you have an inoperable brain tumor. The good news is that we can do brain transplants. A man’s brain costs $100,000.00 and a woman’s brain costs “30,000.00.” Why such a large difference “The female brain is used.”