Here you have it, not science fiction, but a gate to brain understanding and liberation for tetraplegic!
There are articles about this breakthrough in man – machine connection all over the press, even the Wall Street Journal about the success of a research organization called BrainGate as well as  Leigh Hochberg, of Brown University in Providence, R.I., and colleagues. The  medpagetoday [1] discussion.

But how does it work?

The research team built an interface from Human brain to Robotic arm, that can be will controlled, (noticed I did not say thought), by a Human. The signal is transmitted to the Robot’s control circuitry from the microchip implanted in Cathy’s motor cortex ( a 96-channel microelectrode array). The system was further demonstrated by having a stroke victim, Cathy Hutchinson, bring a drink bottle to her lips.

The interface, aptly called BrainGate2, underwent a  pilot clinical trial. quoting medpagetoday:

“…Neural signals detected by the electrodes were translated by an external computer and used to control two robotic arms — the DLR Light-Weight Robot III, which was designed by the German Aerospace Center as an assistive device, and the DEKA Arm System, which was designed as an advanced upper limb replacement for individuals with an arm amputation…”

The core of this marvel is in that little sentence: “Neural signals detected by the electrodes”

Here is the video by NatureVideo in YouTube

 


So what is the nature of a a neural signal?

  • Chemical?
  • Electric?
  • both?
Below we show a Wikipedia Commons description of a neuron firing  a signal to another neuron. These are electrochemical impulses (action potentials) of a rather complex nature. In a nutshell cell membranes allow certain ions,  electrically charged )  to flow through. In a tighter language, action potentials are generated by special types of voltage-gated ion channels embedded in a cell’s plasma membrane.

 

 

Transmission of Nervous Signals

 

Better yet, to assist us understanding this complex bio-physico-chemistry, here is a YouTube animation from BrainU, describing the whole process.

 


From here,  Hochberg and colleagues had to design a microchip that would pick up this biologic electrical currents, isolate them from the rest of the brain electro-physical activity, interpret and convert it into a signal to the robotic arm.

Child’s play it is not….

 

I will let you ponder this philosophical conundrum: Does our thinking  initiate the neural  firing or is the firing our thinking? Your answer will define where you stand  in the great Religion vs. Atheism debate….

  1. medpagetoday ; “Stroke Victims Use Minds to Control Robotic Arms”; 2012
  2. Braingate2.org
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