Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Never Heard of a BCI (Brain-Computer Interface)? You Will

"Ultrathin Silk-Based Electronics Make Better Brain Implants"
Wired Science (April 19, 2010)

"Silk has made its way from the soft curves of the body to the spongy folds of the brain. Engineers have now designed silk-based electronics that stick to the surface of the brain, similar to the way a silk dress clings to the hips.

"The stretchable, ultrathin design would make for better brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), which record brain activity in paralyzed patients and translate thoughts into movements of computer cursors or robotic arms. Because it’s so thin and flexible, a silk-based device could reach regions of the brain that were previously inaccessible.

" 'This development heralds a new class of implantable devices, not just for the brain, but for many other tissues,' said neurologist Brian Litt of the University of Pennsylvania who co-authored the study published April 18 in Nature Materials...."

The silk part of the implant dissolves after the device is in place, leaving the array wrapped around the surface of the brain.

There's an enormous range of possible uses for this sort of technology. The Wired Science article is fairly short, and focuses on how this flexible, thin, implant may work around some practical problems similar devices have had.

Like any other technology, from fire and string to nuclear energy and contemporary pharmaceuticals, neural implants are a sort of good news/bad news proposition. Which I've written about before. (July 11, 2009) We survived the invention of string, and learned how to not burn down our homes.

Sure, there are going to be problems with 'brain chips.' There are problems with every technology. On the whole, I think the advantages of these neural interfaces will be worth the effort it takes, learning how to use them.

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2 comments:

Brigid said...

"and learned how to not burn down our homes."

Well, usually.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

;D

And yet, we still use "fire" in various forms.

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