Friday, April 01, 2005


No we are not taking about your body mass index, we are talking about bio mechanical interfaces or if you do not know what that means, then "brain-computer interfaces" will work just fine.

"There's a hand lying on the blanket on Matt Nagle's desk and he's staring at it intently, thinking "Close, close," as the scientists gathered around him look on. To their delight, the hand twitches and its outstretched fingers close around the open palm, clenching to a fist.

In that moment, Nagle made history. Paralyzed from the neck down after a vicious knife attack four years ago, he is the first person to have controlled an artificial limb using a device chronically implanted into his brain."

The article above out lines there different technologies which are currently competing against each other. All three work on the basic principle, but require different levels of patient commitment.

"For all the promise brain implants hold, there are some that believe they are not the best bet for many patients. Implants suffer from a number of drawbacks, the first being that they demand invasive surgery, with attendant risks. Second, implanted electrodes cause at least some inflammation of the brain tissues they push into. As well as obvious medical concerns, if the inflammation is significant, it can smother any signals the electrodes might pick up"

I think the complaint of invasive surgery is important, but can be overcome, with time. Heart surgery has only improved, and we have reduced the reasons for cracking people open like walnuts, something similar would probably happen to this technology.

"At the Wadsworth Centre, the laboratory arm of the New York State health department, John Wolpaw and his team recently proved that a hat not unlike a swimming cap peppered with electrodes could pick up clear enough signals to allow the wearer to move a cursor around a computer screen. "There was an unsupported assumption that to get that kind of control, you needed to implant, but our work showed that's not the case. These systems can do better than a lot of people give them credit for," says Wolpaw."

This probably one of the safer ones to do research with, because you can get anyone to use the cap. You can try it out one a lot of people and see what happens. Hell, I would like one at work so i would not have to spend time typing blog posts, i could just think them.

"While Wolpaw has achieved control many thought impossible without implanting electrodes directly into the brain, he feels a third technique, called electrocorticography, or Ecog, might have the brightest future. Ecog involves a smaller operation to place a small sheet of electrodes on the surface of the brain. "With this, you get strong signals, you can pick them up from smaller areas but you're not sticking something into the brain," he says. Preliminary trials show patients can learn to use Ecog devices much faster than electrodes placed on their scalps."

I would place my money on this one. The more information the computer receives the more complex operations it will be able to do.

Soon the lame will walk again.

The above article indicated that we would use the signals to operate machines, another article mentions that electrical pluses could move a persons muscles.

"The long term aim is to design a package the size of a mobile phone that will run on batteries, and to electrically stimulate the patient's own muscles.

This will be difficult.

The simple movements we take for granted in fact involve complex electrical signals which will be hard to replicate, Dr Richard Apps, a neurophysiologist from Bristol University, the UK, told the BBC News website. "

I think that is a waste of time, just give the exoskeleton to run with my brain.


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