Are we the only ones who excited by the phrase “neural interface brain implant” and think, “wow, the future is here!”? No? Anyone?
First, you need understand precisely what we’re talking about here.
Brown’s BrainGate Neural Interface System—conceived in 2000 with the help of a $4.25-million U.S. Defense Department grant—includes a baby aspirin–size brain sensor containing 100 electrodes, each thinner than a human hair, that connects to the surface of the motor cortex (the part of the brain that enables voluntary movement), registers electrical signals from nearby neurons, and transmits them through gold wires to a set of computers, processors and monitors. (ScientificAmerican.com in 2006 wrote about one patient’s experience using BrainGate during its first phase of trials.)
Then, you need to understand who this technology helps, and how.
The researchers designed BrainGate to assist those suffering from spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, brain stem stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and other motor neuron diseases. During the initial testing five years ago, patients suffering from paralysis demonstrated their ability to use brain signals sent from their motor cortex to control external devices such as computer screen cursors and robotic arms just by thinking about them.
Now the company got approval from the FDA to do a second trial with more patients, which will hopefully yield a ton of useful data. When this technology starts becoming mainstream many people who are suffering now will have some sort of relief. People like us on the other hand, will use it to change tv channels – with our minds. Such is the progress of technology.