Science & Technology
If a human can interface with a computer through electrical impulses, then why is it so hard to believe that human to human telepathy (mind to mind communication) is so far fetched?
This article discusses the effects that "Braingate", a human to computer interface will have on paralyzed patients and beyond.
Gizmag.com - An implantable, brain-computer interface the size of an aspirin has been clinically tested on humans by American company Cyberkinetics. The 'BrainGate' device can provide paralyzed or motor-impaired patients a mode of communication through the translation of thought into direct computer control. The technology driving this breakthrough in the Brain-Machine-Interface field has a myriad of potential applications, including the development of human augmentation for military and commercial purposes.
"The goal of the BrainGate program is to develop a fast, reliable and unobtrusive connection between the brain of a severely disabled person and a personal computer" stated Tim Surgenor, President and CEO of Cyberkinetics. "We [hope] to provide paralyzed individuals with a gateway through which they can access the broad capabilities of computers, control devices in the surrounding environment, and even move their own limbs."
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have already demonstrated that a monkey can feed itself with a robotic arm simply by using signals from its brain, an advance that could enhance prosthetics for people, especially those with spinal cord injuries. Now, using the BrainGate system in the current human trials, a 25 year old quadriplegic has successfully been able to switch on lights, adjust the volume on a TV, change channels and read e-mail using only his brain. Crucially, the patient was able to do these tasks while carrying on a conversation and moving his head at the same time.
John Donoghue, the chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University, led the original research project and went on to co-found Cyberkinetics, where he is currently chief scientific officer overseeing the clinical trial. "The development of the BrainGate program is the culmination of 10 years of research in my academic laboratory at Brown University. We have not only demonstrated in preclinical studies that BrainGate can remain safely implanted in the [monkey] brain for at least two years, but we have shown that it can safely be removed as well."
About the BrainGate device
The BrainGate Neural Interface Device is a proprietary brain-computer interface that consists of an internal neural signal sensor and external processors that convert neural signals into an output signal under the users own control. The sensor consists of a tiny chip smaller than a baby aspirin, with one hundred electrode sensors each thinner than a hair that detect brain cell electrical activity.
The BrainGate technology platform was designed to take advantage of the fact that many patients with motor impairment have an intact brain that can produce movement commands. This may allow the BrainGate system to create an output signal directly from the brain, bypassing the route through the nerves to the muscles that cannot be used in paralysed people.
The chip is implanted on the surface of the brain in the motor cortex area that controls movement. In the pilot version of the device, a cable connects the sensor to an external signal processor in a cart that contains computers. The computers translate brain activity and create the communication output using custom decoding software. Importantly, the entire BrainGate system was specifically designed for clinical use in humans and thus, its manufacture, assembly and testing are intended to meet human safety requirements. Five quadriplegics patients in all are enrolled in the pilot study, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).