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An implantable electronic chip may help establish new nerve connections in the part of the brain that controls movement

Researchers at the University of Washington are working on an implantable electronic chip that may help establish new nerve connections in the part of the brain that controls movement. Their most recent study showed such a device can induce brain changes in monkeys lasting more than a week.

Strengthening of weak connections through this mechanism may have potential in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries, stroke, or paralysis.

The authors of study were Dr. Andrew Jackson, senior research fellow in physiology and biophysics, Dr. Jaideep Mavoori, who recently earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the UW, and Dr. Eberhard Fetz, professor of physiology and biophysics. For many years Fetz and his colleagues have studied how the brains of monkeys control their limb muscles.

When awake, the brain continuously governs the body’s voluntary movements. This is largely done through the activity of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the motor cortex. These nerve cells, or neurons, send signals down to the spinal cord to control the contraction of certain muscles, like those in the arms and legs.

The possibility that these neural signals can be recorded directly and used to operate a computer or to control mechanical devices outside of the body has been driving the rapidly expanding field of brain-computer interfaces, often abbreviated BCI. The recent study suggests that the brain’s nerve signals can be harnessed to create changes within itself.

The researchers tested a miniature, self-contained device with a tiny computer chip. The devices were placed on top of the heads of monkeys who were free to carry out their usual behaviors, including sleep. Called a Neurochip, the brain-computer interface was developed by Mavoori for his doctoral thesis.

“The Neurochip records the activity of motor cortex cells,” Fetz explained, “It can convert this activity into a stimulus that can be sent back to the brain, spinal cord, or muscle, and thereby set up an artificial connection that operates continuously during normal behavior. This recurrent brain-computer interface creates an artificial motor pathway that the brain may learn to use to compensate for impaired pathways.”

Jackson found that, when the brain-computer interface continuously connects neighboring sites in the motor cortex, it produces long-lasting changes. Namely, the movements evoked from the recording site changed to resemble those evoked from the stimulation site.

The researchers said that a likely explanation for these changes is the strengthening of pathways within the cortex from the recording to the stimulation site. This strengthening may have been produced by the continuous synchronization of activity at the two sites, generated by the recurrent brain-computer interface.

Timing is critical for creating these connections, the researchers said. The conditioning effect occurs only if the delay between the recorded activity and the stimulation is brief enough. The changes are produced in a day of continuous conditioning with the recurrent brain-computer interface, but last for many days after the circuit is turned off.

“This unusually long-lasting plasticity may be related to the fact that the conditioning is associated with normal behavior,” Fetz said.

The full work's findings, titled “Long-Term Motor Cortex Plasticity Induced by an Electronic Neural Implant,” are to be published in the November 2, 2006, edition of Nature.

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little poll.
By Wwhat on 10/27/2006 11:26:19 PM , Rating: 1
What are the chances you think this technology will be used against people at some time in the next 50 years in percentage?

I give it 60% in an attempt to stay optimistic.

RE: little poll.
By KristopherKubicki on 10/27/2006 11:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
Ever read Neuromancer? I'd put my money pretty much on 100%.

RE: little poll.
By Griswold on 10/28/2006 3:59:59 AM , Rating: 3
Is there any technology that has not been used against people?

RE: little poll.
By Wwhat on 10/28/2006 4:54:58 AM , Rating: 2
Good point :/

RE: little poll.
By WhiteBoyFunk on 10/30/2006 11:38:21 AM , Rating: 1
Leave it to the Sci-Fi geeks to put a negative spin on ANYTHING. -.-

RE: little poll.
By jconan on 10/31/2006 10:31:37 PM , Rating: 2
hmm... what are the chances of someone trying to overclock someone else's brain chip remotely or even jam it with emp? and most brains function optimally around 98F? supposedly the fbi, cia, or nsa wanted to silence an individual over some petty presidential request, a scandal or national affair all they would have to do is overclock the chip or for matters worse all your thoughts can now be read just by analyzing the cpu frequencies... some ethical concerns or privacy issues could be raised but then again we're becoming a nation who doesn't care about privacy nor freedom or property ownership and digital property covering chips and codes doesn't mean exclusive ownership or a right to modify your own property as you see fit but a license to use it unlike physical property i.e. a car, a book, your real estate, etc... that means the code in the chip belongs to some company and not you and you have no say what code runs and what doesn't, and individuals could be spammed for the rest of their life unless they get a chip upgrade. in the case of intel it may mean that there may be socket or chipset incompatibilities

By wingless on 10/28/2006 12:12:01 AM , Rating: 2
Ghost in the Shell by writer/futurist Shirow Masamune is an accurate depiction of what our future will be. This weird thing is he wrote it all in the mid 1980s before the wide scale proliferation of the internet. I recommnend you all get the Appleseed manga because it has a timeline that spans from the 1980s to the 22nd century. In this he stated the beginning of cybernetic implants were was brought about by the prosthetic industry looking to replace limbs of American soliders that were lost in one of our wars. Well thats one of the major driving forces behind cybernetics and robotics today. Shirow Masamune predicted it all 20 years before it happened but ofcourse this is all just a natural progression of technology.

By Wwhat on 10/28/06, Rating: -1
By Wwhat on 10/28/06, Rating: 0
By wingless on 10/28/2006 9:24:11 AM , Rating: 2
The military doesnt have a whole bunch to do with the research . Regular coporations are the ones developing the technology because a lot of money is to be made from this technology. Blown off limbs = a larger market so theyre capitalizing on it.

By UserDoesNotExist on 10/28/2006 2:24:38 PM , Rating: 1
Ever been to a VA? The Army is very generous to veterans with disabilities. If anything, they're *too* generous (i.e. giving veterans reimbursements for conditions that were not due to military service in order to prevent lawsuits.)

I guess the slashdot and digg crowds have started to migrate over to this website, given the amount of absolutely off-topic posts and fanboyism that has emerged lately. Guess I have to find a new technology news site now.

By Wwhat on 10/28/2006 3:03:08 PM , Rating: 2
haha, someone's going emo ;]
I was responding to the remark that the army is involved in research for robotic prosthetics, I don't think it is.
And when I say I saw documentaries I don't mean I read slashdot nor digg, I happen to not visit these two sites actually.
I was speaking about tv documentaries some of which were american some of which were european, fascinating that a range of sources make this claim of poor support (including btw several movies and tv shows but you could write those off as fiction I guess).
I rather believe several sources like that than one emo armyfanboi who obviously likes his sources 'sanitised'.

By WhiteBoyFunk on 10/30/2006 11:45:12 AM , Rating: 2
Um...I would like to contest this statement. I'm a military member and know better. The government imburses veterans with disabilities reactively, not proactively like UserDNE is implying.

And in regards to the prosthetics and robotics race there are many sides to that problem. From what I understand the Army has stepped up their programs and other branches are probably following. As far as taking care of disabled veterans take a look at this story.

I guess the slashdot and digg crowds have started to migrate over to this website, given the amount of absolutely off-topic posts and fanboyism that has emerged lately. Guess I have to find a new technology news site now.

Guess I'll be the one to break it to you...I just don't feel confident saying a lot of them will miss you. I know I won't.

By Nik00117 on 10/29/2006 7:27:06 AM , Rating: 3
Actually I've seen several documentaries about how the US army treats people if they become useless to them because they lost a limb or something, and it's not pleasant, they are dropped and forgotten and the amry doesn't give a damm about them from then on and you are lucky if they don't milk you dry for every penny, so I doubt there's a 'driving force' from that area to develop prosthetics in real life.

Get your facts straight before you even attempt to talk about something.

First off my dads in the Military if he were to die we'd get 400,000 plus my mom would get his retirement pay for the remaining part of her life.

If my dad would be injured because of military service to the point where he was disabled to far to be of any use to the Military he'd get compensation 250,000 or so plus full retirement pay, and disability pay from the military.

Enough so if he would be forced to live without working he could easily live of the disability, and retirement pay.

The government takes care of its people, I see it day in and day out. You get 2 1/2 days off every month (which you can save up as leave) you also get family, and goal days in which you get a day off. Also for every week your gone on TUI you get one day off on top of your 2 1/2 days of leave. So if your TUI for 4 months 16 days off plus all the leave you earned if you want to keep that as well.

If your in a combat zone you get combat pay on top of all your bonuses.

Free top of the line health care, if your overseas they pay your rent, and part of your ulities on top of a COLA (cost of living allowance) which is normally 1000 or so in itself on top of the normal paycheck.

By Ringold on 10/30/2006 12:40:38 AM , Rating: 3
In a mild attempt to add a little balance..

I've personally known two individuals, one Navy one Army, whose jobs at one point during their enlistments was to search through the records of active servicemen nearing retirement for the purpose of finding grounds of getting them out the door either before they could retire with full benefits or, preferably, without any benefits at all.

Both of these guys were sickened by it; I happen to know them 'cause one of them ended up being high school teachers and the other one is an uncle that didn't admit it until he heard me mention it.

Swear upon all thats holy, thats the truth.

The military is a business in that it has a budget, and the best way to keep to the budget is to cut expenses. Companies have lay-offs, the military.. has that.

On the other hand, my best friend from high school tried a couple years of college and this summer ran off to basic. I fully expect if anything happens to him, if he gets disabled, he gets taken care of. If not, well, hopefully by then one of us has a law degree. If no law degree, then cash enough to hire someone with one.

Anyway, I'd wager that MOST veterans get treated right.

And a recent study showed that the VA hospital system puts the rest of the nations hospitals to absolute shame.

By WhiteBoyFunk on 10/30/2006 11:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
Please read my response above as you are ill-informed.

By Clauzii on 10/28/2006 8:43:04 PM , Rating: 2
It sometimes looks as we create technoligy and society based on Scince Fiction movies :)

RE: Funny...
By Scrogneugneu on 10/29/2006 12:48:59 AM , Rating: 2
Well, everything starts as an idea, then evolves... when people read books, they dream about "what if it was true?", and when they're competent enough in the field, they try to make it happen.

Kinda makes you wonder who loved 1984 so much...

RE: Funny...
By Clauzii on 10/29/2006 6:51:22 PM , Rating: 2
That was a good movie btw. Fiction or not ;)

science and morality
By reza on 10/28/2006 11:22:54 AM , Rating: 2
now there is a business known as war. And science for war could not restricted by morality.

RE: science and morality
By tyh on 10/28/2006 2:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
metal gear solid 4 anyone?? i think it's four. not sure. the new one where when it's war... it's business

fact vs fiction
By dama on 10/28/2006 5:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
- Ghost in the Shell, Neuromancer Metal Gear Solid 4 and those un-named movies are fiction. The article we are all commenting on is fact.
- A manufactured electronic device that independantly interacts with (both transmits and receives intelligent signals) our brain - a living, naturally occuring bio-electrical organ is mind-boggling and truly amazing.
- The absolutely best fiction is only entertaining and thought/emotion provoking.

RE: fact vs fiction
By ogmike1973 on 10/30/2006 6:29:52 PM , Rating: 2
Fiction often leads to fact. Look at the clamshell cell phone...pre-dated by the communicators in Star Trek. Consider that the communcations satellite is the baby of SF writer Arthur C. Clarke. Do not dismiss fiction simply for being fiction.

My Brain
By MobileZone on 10/28/2006 6:34:00 PM , Rating: 3
my whole brain was out of tune
my whole brain was out of tune
I don't know how to tune a brain, do you?

went in to a brain shop
they said they'd have to rebuild the whole head
I said well, do what you gotta do

when i got my brain back, it didn't work right
didn't have as many good ideas
haven't really have a good idea since i got it fixed

Morphine - My Brain song

The ultimate learning toolset
By Astarte on 10/29/2006 11:50:50 AM , Rating: 1
This technology properly refined will help me to learn Concert Piano in, say 2050, at an age when in the previous century I would already have been dead from Alzheimer :)

RE: The ultimate learning toolset
By sscilli on 10/30/2006 12:53:00 AM , Rating: 2
Very interesting indeed. I have to admit that I'm a GITS fan, and though this is not proof that we will all walk the earth as cyborgs it is non the less amazing. The knowlege that will be attained from testing this chip will be fundemental to further integrating technology with biology. I hope that I'm alive to see the day that this sort of technology is part of our everyday lives.

The ultimate learning toolset
By Astarte on 10/29/2006 11:47:19 AM , Rating: 2
This technology properly refined will help me to learn Concert Piano in, say 2050, at an age when in the previous century I would already have been dead from Alzeheimer :)

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