Print 35 comment(s) - last by MTahani.. on Apr 10 at 2:24 PM

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. 

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

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.

"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki