September 03 2008 / by futuretalk / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Other Year: General Rating: 5 Hot
By Dick Pelletier
Cyberkinetics of Foxborough Massachusetts has begun FDA-approved clinical trials with BrainGate, a device that enables paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains – and eventually could help them regain complete mobility.
Most handicapped people are satisfied if they can get a rudimentary connection to the outside world. BrainGate enables them to achieve far more than that. By controlling the computer cursor, patients can access Internet information, TV entertainment, and control lights and appliances – with just their thoughts.
And as this amazing technology advances, researchers believe it could enable brain signals to bypass damaged nerve tissues and restore mobility to paralyzed limbs. “The goal of BrainGate is to develop a fast, reliable, and unobtrusive connection between the brain of a severely disabled person and a personal computer” said Cyberkinetics President Tim Surgenor.
BrainGate may sound like science fiction, but its not. The device is smaller than a dime and contains 100 wires thinner than human hairs which connect with the portion of the brain that controls motor activity. The wires detect when neurons are fired and sends those signals through a tiny connector mounted on the skull to a computer.
Implanted into the brains of five handicapped patients, the device is already showing great promise. 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 thoughts. And he was able to do these tasks while carrying on a conversation and moving his head at the same time.
Although this technology may not equal the hype of stem cell and genetic engineering miracles that promise, within the next decade, to re-build damaged brains, spinal cords, and other organs, cell by cell; BrainGate is available now and can provide much needed help for the 200,000 paralyzed Americans who are suffering today.
Eligibility to participate in BrainGate clinical trials is tough. Applicants must be unable to use their hands due to a spinal cord injury, stroke, or muscular dystrophy, and must also be permanent residents in the greater Boston/Providence area. Additional sites may open in other states soon. For more information on costs and availability and other products, visit www.cyberkineticsinc.com.
Cyberkinetics hopes to refine BrainGate to develop a completely implantable wireless device making it safer and less visible. And as research from places like the Allen Brain Project and Howard Hughes Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus begins to produce brain mapping and other crucial neuronal developments, there is a potential for a host of other applications.
Future developments of brain-chip implants, researchers believe, will involve mind-boggling capabilities. Within 10 years, it will be possible to “download” memory implants for skill enhancement, which would allow actions to be performed that have not been learned directly. Imagine learning a new subject or mastering a foreign language – without studying.
And non-verbal communication systems will be developed from this wild technology too. “Chipped” people will communicate with each other, using just their thoughts – from anywhere on Earth. This portion of the road towards our “magical future” is unfolding today. Get ready to enjoy. Comments welcome.