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The new brain machine could help those with paralysis  (Source: oldagesolutions.org)
The machine has already helped a monkey move its paralyzed hand

Northwestern University researchers have created a machine that could one day allow paralyzed patients to move their hands again.

Lee E. Miller, study leader and professor of neuroscience, physiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, developed a brain machine that sends messages from the brain directly to paralyzed muscles (without passing through the spinal cord), allowing the muscles to move again.

To do this, Miller and his team implanted electrodes into monkeys and recorded electrical brain and muscle signals. Using the recordings, the researchers created an algorithm that allowed them to interpret the signals and understand patterns associated with muscle activity. In other words, the team managed to compute the relationship between the brain and muscle activity.

"We are eavesdropping on the natural electrical signals from the brain that tell the arm and hand how to move, and sending those signals directly to the muscles," said Miller. "This connection from brain to muscles might someday be used to help patients paralyzed due to spinal cord injury perform activities of daily living and achieve greater independence."

Miller and his team tested the brain machine on a monkey that had a local anesthetic block nerve activity at the elbow. This caused temporary paralysis of the hand. Then, using neuroprosthesis, which were devices in the brain and arms that sense a plethora of movements the monkey may want to make (such as gripping a ball), the monkeys brain signals controlled tiny electric currents that were delivered to the muscles in less than 40 milliseconds. The monkey was allowed to pick up a ball almost as it did before its hand was paralyzed.

Part of the system was an implant called a multi-electrode array, which is capable of detecting 100 neurons' activity in the brain. It acts as an interface between the brain and the computer used to interpret signals associated with hand movements.

Miller said the system could help those with paralysis learn to move their hands and possibly other muscles in the body at some point.

Source: Eurekalert



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Just a start
By Gondor on 4/21/2012 4:56:44 PM , Rating: 2
This is akin to first crude attempts at electronics at the start of the 1900 or advances in computing during the 70s and 80s. Huge leaps will be made in the upcoming decades and before our generation dies we're likely to see technology augment humans in ways only pictured in sci-fi movies thus far.

Today we take hearing aids for granted but imagine vision aids (lenses coupled to cameras capable of zooming, displaying information from parts of the spectra invisible to the human eye such as IR, UV or gamma radiation, overlaying additional information such as results of ultrasonic or radar scans, etc.) or prostheses that perform way beyond any human. To think about it, there's nothing preventing use of huge exoskeletons (think Mech-warrior), fitted with all sorts of gizmos ... or weapons ... oh the possibilities !

The problem I see here is that not everybody will be able to afford the advantages of augmentation devices, much like many people cannot afford a private jet or a warm meal today. This could potentialy lead to apocalyptic scenarions depicted in movies ... and that's the ugly side of progress.

What od you guys think, is our future going the Star Trek way (= utopian society where technology benefits everybody) or is it going to be more along the lines of Total Recall ?




RE: Just a start
By Doken44 on 4/21/2012 8:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
It's been several years, so I don't remember clearly, but I recall a Popular Science article (I think) about enhanced vision and additional limbs. In that, experts said human minds wouldn't know how to interpret the vision signals or use the limbs, thus they would be useless. I believe they said they didn't think they could even make a person who was born blind able to see. The brain needed to be wired for the task.

We'd need a computer that would somehow interface with our brains like what Dr. Octopus had in Spider-Man 2. (hopefully the violent insanity thing isn't a real issue)

Vision overlays could work. Isn't Google already doing something like this with their "Project Glass"?

Replacing missing limbs and enhancing strength is quite possible, although probably ridiculously expensive.

I don't know what will come first, however - regrowing biological limbs, or fully functional prosthesis.


RE: Just a start
By Doken44 on 4/21/2012 8:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
Also the issue of piloting giant robots as extensions of this tech needs to address the motion sickness factor of the up and down movements from walking. I'd expect that they'd need to override the sense of balance and reroute it to the "mech" just to be able to keep it upright. Walking on 2 legs is no easy task.

I think that practicality will dwarf the coolness factor, but I could be wrong.


RE: Just a start
By Reclaimer77 on 4/22/2012 8:55:11 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
To think about it, there's nothing preventing use of huge exoskeletons (think Mech-warrior), fitted with all sorts of gizmos ... or weapons ... oh the possibilities !


The problem is the power source. We could build the suit, but to sustain operations we would need some kind of Iron Man Tony Starks heart-plug reactor to continuously power it.

It's really a shame that all R&D on miniature nuclear reactor designs have stopped.

quote:
What od you guys think, is our future going the Star Trek way (= utopian society where technology benefits everybody) or is it going to be more along the lines of Total Recall ?


I love Star Trek but it's such a perfect example of Communism in action, that I just can't believe it's ever possible. Virtually every character and planet and solar system in the Star Trek universe has dedicated themselves to laying down their lives and aspirations for the betterment of the United Federation of Planets. It's a bit much to swallow honestly. No money or personal possessions? No problem apparently, everyone is happy enough to go along with furthering the 'Federations agenda. Like come on, please!

I think Firefly has a more realistic back-story and vision of the future. That future feels tangible, more real. I can smell it, taste it, and go to bed with it.


RE: Just a start
By Solandri on 4/22/2012 2:24:43 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I love Star Trek but it's such a perfect example of Communism in action, that I just can't believe it's ever possible. [...] No money or personal possessions? No problem apparently, everyone is happy enough to go along with furthering the 'Federations agenda. Like come on, please!

It's not so far-fetched if you consider that as technology progresses, productivity increases. The productivity per capita dedicated to fulfilling needs (food, clothing, shelter) stays relatively constant, so drops as a percentage. Eventually you'll reach a point where those needs can be satisfied with a trivial percentage of productivity, and the vast majority of your energies can be dedicated to entertainment, or research and exploration. You can already see it happening in the U.S., where those living in "poverty" live better than 99% of the rest of the world.

Unfortunately where this falls apart is, as you mentioned, energy. If you want to sustain productivity with technology instead of human labor, you need a cheap source of energy. A man doing manual labor for 8 hours a day can only plow about an acre. A man sitting in a tractor burning gas for 8 hours a day can plow hundreds of acres. Technology (the tractor) is just a means of substituting generic energy (gas) for human energy, and thus increasing our per-capita productivity.

As long as we're hell-bent on prioritizing clean energy over cost-efficient energy, and conservation over research into new energy sources, energy generation technology is going to stagnate. When energy becomes more expensive, productivity stagnates, or possibly even regresses. Yes clean energy and conservation are important, but they have to be secondary to cost-efficiency if you want to maintain our productivity and standard of living.

The idea that we can survive in an idyllic paradise with everyone tilling their own gardens and harvesting their own food is completely unrealistic. It's a dream made up by those who've never tried to survive running a farm. Back in the days when people actually lived that way, their per-capita productivity was barely enough to feed themselves even with 12-16 hour workdays. The survival margin was so thin that if there was bad weather or a crop failure, people died of starvation.


RE: Just a start
By Reclaimer77 on 4/23/2012 3:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
Solandri I came across this a while back and I think you would appreciate it. It's a very detailed almost-thesis level writeup on why the author believes the Next Generation era Star Trek universe is Communist. He brings up good points and everything is supported with data from the show(s). He goes way further than I've ever put thought into this subject.

http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Trek-Ma...


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