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The new Caltech prototype involves an upper control cylinder with MEMS motor assemblies that drive electrodes into contact with brain neurons. The device should improve neuroprosthetic lifespan and allow better control of devices.  (Source: Caltech Robotics Burdick Group)
New device looks to improve neural prosthetics for paralysis victims

For America's approximately 5,000 people who suffer cervical spinal cord injuries each year, typically resulting in quadriplegia, new brain-computer interfaces are not merely fun and games, they're a means to perhaps someday live a full life again and possibly regain some movement.  Standing in the way is the complexity of the in-tissue implants needed to gain more complex control.

A newly designed implant from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) aims to simplify the process of attaching miniature electrodes to brain neurons via robotic control using MEMS devices, tiny little motors.  The Caltech Robotics Burdick group is running the project.  The group is led by research engineers Michael Wolf, Joel Burdick, his mentor, Jorge Cham and Edward Branchaud.  According to researchers, this is the "first robotic approach to establishing an interface between computers and the brain by positioning electrodes in neural tissue". 

The research "could enhance the performance and longevity of emerging neural prosthetics, which allow paralyzed people to operate computers and robots with their minds" according to the researchers.  An early prototype of the system has been constructed.

The prototype is currently undergoing testing on non-human primates.  According to the researchers, the device "is designed to fit inside a standard laboratory cranial chamber, used for acute experiments in non-human primates, to allow semi-chronic operation. A semi-chronic design has the advantage that the device can be repositioned over a different region with minimal effort and without need for additional surgeries."

The device positions four electrodes to optimize action potentials.  Wolf describes the overall design of the device, stating, "Our approach consists of implanting a small robotic device (and accompanying control algorithm) with many individually-motorized electrodes that each autonomously locate, isolate, and track a neuron for long periods of time. To further complicate matters, we wish to find signals only from neurons dedicated ('tuned') to a particular task, say controlling an 'arm reach.' While the primary aim of such technology is for a neural interface for neuroprostheses, such a device may also advance the state-of-the-art experimental techniques for electrophysiology."

While the Caltech team is still working on fine tuning the MEMS design for the final version of the device, the software algorithm is complete.  The algorithm in many respects is the keystone of the project.  It was actually adapted from algorithms the U.S. military uses to track airplanes.  On a most basic level, the algorithm involves the motors slowly being powered to drive the probe down into a tissue.  As it picks up a signal it pushes the probe deeper until the signal deepens, in which case it backs up to position itself on the active neuron.

Neuroprosthetics, the science of using brain implants to power robotic limb movement, is a budding field of science, buoyed by recent better understanding of the human brain and new nanoelectronic designs.  However longevity is a major concern as cells in the brain can shift slightly and even slight shifts in an in-brain electrode probe could disconnect it. 

The advance of medical science is frustratingly slow for the afflicted, but with improvements such as the new Caltech interface, quadriplegics and those suffering from other neurological conditions may someday be able to walk and lead mostly normal lives.



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Why Do You Hate The Matrix?
By AggressorPrime on 5/22/2008 3:08:33 PM , Rating: 1
Matrix: "All your base are belong to us."
Humans: "Fire Every Zig! For Great Justice!"
Matrix: "Hahahahaha. All your brain are belong to us. Resistance is futile. All your actions are belong to us. Resistance is futile. Hahahahaha. All your zigs are belong to us."

Anyway, machines can't think, Descartes proved that, and modern science is based on Descartes, so don't worry. Only the human in charge of the machine can control you. This technology is the peak of human evolution. With the ability to connect our minds with the virtual world, we can eliminate schools (cut taxes), force everyone to have perfect knowledge (at least complete knowledge of everything on record), and use everyone as an explorer into further knowledge with constant communication between minds (no language barrier). And for those in control of the human race, there will be no disobedience. What? You really think we will enter this new age with physical freedom? This is more powerful than nuclear weapons. This is complete control. Whoever controls the computer that programs the minds of the human race, that person controls the world.

Anyway, you might as well accept complete control of the physical world. It is inevitable. The only question is, who will be in charge? Who do you trust, as if you had a choice in choosing who will control the human race. "Matrix: Hahahahaha." Sorry if this scares you, but this is basic human evolution. There is no escaping it.




"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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