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The BrainGate implant
Curing debilitating cerebral problems may just be a memory chip away

A new brain implant that could potentially solve a number of brain-related problems, ranging anywhere from Alzheimer’s to memory loss.

The research for the brain implant is being headed by Ted Berger from the University of Southern California Los Angeles. A pioneer of his field, Berger earned his Ph.D. in 1976 at the age of 26. From there, though, he parted ways with the thinking of many of his colleagues.  

“The idea was that you could solve every brain problem with a drug or surgery,” said Berger to Stephen Handelman from Popular Science. Berger instead chose to look at the brain itself as a source to solve brain-related issues.

After years of research and hard work, Berger and his team of neuroscientists have finally able to create a working chip that could replace neurons in the brain. The chip, however, is by no means able to completely model the brain. So far, the chip simulates roughly 12,000 neurons. This is compared to the billions of neurons that are in the human brain.       

Popular Science reports the progress that Berger and his team have made so far is very impressive.  The promise that neural chips hold is stunning, and might be the answer to many modern brain-related problems.

Berger’s chip is very similar to Cyberkinetic’s BrainGate, a brain implant system that helps people who have lost control over their limbs. In BrainGate, a computer chip is implanted in the brain, which then monitors brain activity and converts user intention into computer commands. After the commands are decoded, they can be sent to a robotic arm or a computer cursor. It is important to note that the technology is still far from mainstream use. 

The real challenge for Berger and his team, however, lies in making their chip fully bidirectional. While BrainGate might be able to convert signals into computer commands, Berger wants his chip to be able to also send signals. The problem is, though, that brain cells communicate using “electrical code” that Berger’s chip needs to convert the signals too. This raises a number of issues, including how to regulate the heat that is created by the transistors during operations. As the brain is rather sensitive to temperatures, a chip that would run at high temperatures would most likely end up damaging healthy brain cells.
   
Despite the headway that Berger’s chip has made, the truth of the matter is that scientists are still not any closer to understanding exactly how the brain works. This is a point on which many scientists have criticized Berger and also attacked his work. In a conversation with Popular Science, Burger says, “They tell me I don’t know what memory is, which is true. And they ask how I can replace something that I don’t understand.”

Some scientists also argue that Berger’s chip might potentially change a person’s identity. The chip might end up affecting our “thought structure”, changing our personalities. In addition, they may even be able to add memories to our brains that we never had or damage real ones.

Despite the potential faults of the chip, funding is in abundance for Berger’s research. The National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health both contribute money to Berger’s annual $3-million research budget. Pentagon’s Office of Naval Research and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency also helps foot the bill, as the advantages of a super chip in a soldier are quite obvious.

Later this year, Berger’s team at Wake Forest will begin placing more complex versions of the chip in live lab rats for testing. The rats’ memories will be temporarily disabled using drugs; all in an effort to prove that a fundamental function of the brain, such as memories, can be replaced using a microchip. Within four years the team hopes to use the chips in live monkeys. They also are aiming to have created a device that can actually replace damaged memory cells within 15 years. 


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Upgrade
By feelingshorter on 4/8/2007 2:59:17 PM , Rating: 4
In the future....

Me: I have a gigabyte of add on memory in my head.
Technician: So whats the problem?
Me: I'll never forget my ex-girlfriend, although I'll keep on trying.




RE: Upgrade
By Ringold on 4/8/2007 4:30:07 PM , Rating: 3
Technician: Okay, think open your command line, and ponder 'format C:\'

You: But I keep my college education in there, too.

Technician: Oh, well, you can buy that here too, but, dont tell my boss but you can get one from MIT on bittorrent real easy.


RE: Upgrade
By Scrogneugneu on 4/8/2007 5:29:10 PM , Rating: 3
Gives a whole new sense to those "Get your free college degree now!" spam.


RE: Upgrade
By dijuremo on 4/8/2007 7:43:17 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Technician: Okay, think open your command line, and ponder 'format C:\'


If you are running windows, just wait for the BSOD, then you will even forget your momma, LOL!!!


RE: Upgrade
By TSS on 4/9/2007 7:23:23 AM , Rating: 2
If that chip learns how to enhance humans as well... i dont think i can live with the ramafacations.

or can you guys live with the entire 13-14 year old population running around accusing eachother of "hax" when ever they play as much as catch?


RE: Upgrade
By Spivonious on 4/9/2007 10:09:18 AM , Rating: 2
ha ha....RAMifications...lol


RE: Upgrade
By GoatMonkey on 4/9/2007 9:05:19 AM , Rating: 3
The problem is that there is no screen to display the BSOD, so you just get D.


Ghost in the Shell again..
By wingless on 4/8/2007 3:28:33 PM , Rating: 3
Once again this is the way Shirow Masamune invisioned out future unfolding in his Ghost in the Shell storyline. A few cyber prosthetics here, a few neural implants there and voila! A cyborg is born (or assembled rather). One day you'll have legs made by Toyota, a brain case made by Gigabyte, eyes by Kodak, and a heart by GE (available now btw). Theres potentially big money in all of this and don't we all love new technologies to waste our money on.

Go rent or buy Ghost in the Shell or find the manga and read it. Nothing we'll see in our future wasn't already predicted 20 years ago.




RE: Ghost in the Shell again..
By wingless on 4/8/2007 3:30:54 PM , Rating: 2
And if you havent seen Ghost in the Shell then you'll probably remember ROBOCOP.


RE: Ghost in the Shell again..
By jak3676 on 4/9/2007 11:19:51 AM , Rating: 2
Or back even farther to the $6 million dollar man.


By The Sword 88 on 4/9/2007 12:24:53 PM , Rating: 2
Or Gattaca!

Well not exactly bionics, but still human performance increase though tech


RE: Ghost in the Shell again..
By Ringold on 4/8/2007 4:26:17 PM , Rating: 2
I dont disagree with anything as far as that this has all been foreseen for 20+ years at a minimum, but..

"Waste" our money on these things? Maybe to you, but speak for youself, homefry. I, for one, will enjoy accessing Google while listening to somebody and wondering wtf they're talking about, having spare parts available should one of my natural ones break, having Kodak-made eyes with 50x zoom, and so on and so forth. In fact, far from waste, I can't think of what else in life would be a better expense that replacing broken parts that make a man go from a useless welfare case to a productive person again, or improving ones own body just in general. Definitely a better expense, in my mind, than a new toaster, or, heh, carbon credits. :P


By herrdoktor330 on 4/9/2007 5:26:21 PM , Rating: 2
... I'm sorry... I'm not trying to be rude or have a "nerd off" with you. But this is very William Gibson. He's wrote about this stuff for years before Ghost in the Shell. Neuromancer had the same content matter and was written in 1983. Heck... Shadowrun was a pen and paper RPG that was written in '88-89. I'm sure all of those things pre-dated GitS, which was first published in Manga form in '91.

I'm not arguing. I'm just saying give props where props are due. GitS was cool... but it wasn't the first thing to introduce the world to the concept of Cyberpunk.

Either way, sign me up. as you all can imagine, this will change everything we know about computing.


Overclock it!
By Mitch101 on 4/8/2007 8:29:28 PM , Rating: 2
I love the idea of being able to overclock my head. The heatsink will look a little funny but then when I think about this I could no longer tell the wife I dont recall her telling me something. She is the type of woman to download my thoughts and I dont like that.




RE: Overclock it!
By Dactyl on 4/9/2007 2:51:45 AM , Rating: 3
We will all know who the overclockers are because their heads will overheat from time to time, causing them to spasm and drool.


RE: Overclock it!
By GoatMonkey on 4/9/2007 9:13:31 AM , Rating: 2
At least you will have a built in liquid cooling system, a.k.a. the blood stream.


RE: Overclock it!
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 4/9/2007 9:58:59 AM , Rating: 2
Well, if you overclock it to much you can really watch your blood boil.


Swap
By mendocinosummit on 4/8/2007 3:10:41 PM , Rating: 2
This is tech you could potentially way in the future exchange swap on memory with Britney Spears and see what in the hell she is actually doing. That would be crazy to see somebody else's memories.




RE: Swap
By wingless on 4/8/2007 3:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
...and these ideas will bring about a whole new set of cybernetics laws to keep people from hacking other people and using information maliciously.


RE: Swap
By vhx on 4/8/2007 6:10:01 PM , Rating: 2
This isn't Ghost in the Shell. There is no connection to hack into. Unless you 'hack' using an axe to get directly to it, since these are placed on the brain. Good idea for people with some type of memory problems or disorders. Useless to get for any 'normal' person. What happens if you get the chip, and it stores your memories for the past year? Then all of a sudden it dies, you just lost a year of your life. Won't matter much for Alzheimers(sp) patients, but to a normal person that's a problem. That'll be a potential problem since hardware defects are still common.

I would like to play video games, store my memory of it on the chip. Then clear it, and beable to play it again like it was completely new. That'd be fun for RPG's. :P


RE: Swap
By vortmax on 4/9/2007 11:07:41 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure at some point these chips will have wireless communication capabilities. So, hacking will be possilble. Also, you'll be able to back up all your memories on some server...lol


I got a few
By Cunthor666 on 4/8/2007 5:55:10 PM , Rating: 2
-You will literally die from BSOD.
-It will give us all an excuse to kick old people in order to reboot them
-When passing through an X-Ray at the airport, your brain will format itself
-When you miss your anneversary, you'll have no excuse. Ever.
-Cheating at an exam would be a lot easier

Now discuss...




RE: I got a few
By eomhS on 4/8/2007 8:16:49 PM , Rating: 2
the way you're talking, there's absolutely no need for exams, you'd simply plug in the knowledge you needed. like the matrix, school would no longer be needed.


RE: I got a few
By Ringold on 4/8/2007 8:49:01 PM , Rating: 2
Half true. Pure memory recall, ie, "What year did event x occur in?" would be limited or eliminated for those lucky enough to have such implants.

But having a pile of information at ones disposal and understanding it, much less using it effectively, is two entirely different things. There'd still be school, the tests would just look different I imagine.

Of course, this is decades away anyway..


Ghost in the Shell?
By knowyourenemy on 4/8/2007 6:34:55 PM , Rating: 2
This is the first step to cyberizing the brain. Anyone else have that thought?




By firstagainstthewall on 4/8/2007 7:32:45 PM , Rating: 2
I would have had one, but the TPM in my brain won't allow my own personal thoughts to run.


Future...
By TimberJon on 4/9/2007 11:18:53 AM , Rating: 2
Ghost in the Shell anyone?

Or me:

"Getting my new HDMI ports put in today, and next week I'm getting a dual bank of USB-4 ports."

MONSTER Ad: "Proven to help boost BrainChip efficiency by 35%!"




RE: Future...
By AnotherGuy on 4/9/2007 9:55:07 PM , Rating: 2
Joe: Dude u remember back then 20 years ago when Corsair used to make... i think it was called computer memory?

Dude: Yeah man what a joke huh... n we thought there were so great... pff. This BDDR20 (B for Brain) i think it rox. It can do higher speeds than my real brain so sometimes i have to run it in ratio with my brain... although the new BCELL (B for Brain) processor I plan on gettin to replace my brain next year will not be compatable with this memory i think...

Joe: Dude dont upgrade yet... Wait for (B)AMD to release their REAL MADRID which will kill the BCELL... They just keep pushing the damn launch date :P

Dude: Yeah i heard U will be able to play Half-Life XX inside ur brain or u can output it to a 100 inch Laser TV from ur ear plugs...

Joe: I donno i always liked the old analog anal plug... i think it worked better

God damn gay cyborgs LOL


Gentlemen...BEHOLD!
By Ralph The Magician on 4/8/2007 5:11:41 PM , Rating: 3
Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology...but we don't want to spend a lot of money.




your comment subject
By Ruark on 4/9/2007 7:30:39 AM , Rating: 3
I know Kung-Fu!




Time for a new nm
By scrapsma54 on 4/8/2007 2:45:35 PM , Rating: 3
I guess that makes old people cyborgs.




RE: Time for a new nm
By scrapsma54 on 4/8/07, Rating: -1
Interesting...
By Galcian on 4/8/2007 9:07:36 PM , Rating: 2
This may not be good apart from the potential problems... this will be the new grounds for filesharing, RIAA, DRM and excuses to protect the "artists" rights and prevent people from memorizing the songs, forcing you to pay-to-remember.

Also the porn industry would find a very profitable industry in this.

Joe: "I got a new memory; with Gauge"

Mac: "Dude, that memory is 20 years old, I have it too!"

That is, counting that this will develop in the next 20 years... Corsair, OCZ, Patriot and cheap NeuroRAM brands... the future is bright indeed. New ideas, old problems. Maybe Samsung will exist to take it's share of the pie.

Think of all these and add your own scenarios.




Nothing new here
By mindless1 on 4/9/2007 5:47:44 AM , Rating: 2
Ever since those Aliens abducted me and put a chip in my head I've been happier than, more of and that so if never effected I doubt it. Same as always but MORE.




EXALANT
By MTahani on 4/10/2007 2:24:10 PM , Rating: 2
Exalant!!
What would be the next chapter. It's amazing, technology what's can do to human!!!!?




"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook











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