In the world of science, researchers have just taken the first few steps towards a giant leap that will bring humanity into the next generation of technology. Researchers from the University of Washington had just received $16 million worth of funding for a project to develop a brain implant that has the potential to bring movement back to paralyzed limbs, reports Science Alert.
Spearheading this project would be researchers from the University of Washington’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. Aiding them in this endeavor are other researchers coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, San Diego State University and more.
So far, what the Center (or CSNE) has made is a “bidirectional brain-computer interface.” What it does is connect the broken links between the brain and spine and thus allow movements to be made. These implants are created to detect and decode signals of intention to do something from the brain. Afterwards, it would then transfer these “intentions” to the appropriate body part for the action.
The idea for this scientific miracle would not surface though, if it weren’t for the director of the CSNE, Rajesh Rao. Before he claimed the title of director in 2013, Rajesh stated that the researchers were simply not focused on a single objective. It was due to his leadership that the CSNE had decided to concentrate on brain implants that would aid in healing neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, according to Seattle Times. It is also thanks to Rajesh that the institution received its enormous funding. He hopes to have evidence that the devices they are working on can be embedded into animals and humans within five years.
Along with researching on the scientific methods to make it all possible, people have been paying close attention to the ethics in using such a device. Accompanying the computer science and engineering professors, neuroscientists and neurosurgeons, are ethicists and philosophy professors to study the effects of the implant on the human brain. According to Rajesh, one of the negative effects of the implant is the chance to alter the human brain, potentially changing a person’s identity. Yikes!
Aside from researching the implant’s ethics, the scholars are also looking for ways to give the implant constant and stable control of the targeted body part. The first batch of brain implants ever made constantly transported electrical impulses to the mind even while the individual was asleep. This was dangerous as it led the batteries to drain quicker and increase the person’s visits to their local surgeon for replacement surgery.
There is still much for our researchers to do and find out. But with a team of experts, $16million dollar funding, and the drive to help those afflicted with paralyzed limbs or any other neurological diseases, here’s looking forward to the bright future!
To learn more about the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, watch the video below.