For decades science fiction has been imagining the incredible ways that machines might interact directly with our minds, from enabling telepathic communication to controlling robotic suits, solely using the power of thought. Getting computers to interface directly with the human brain has proven extremely challenging, but rapidly advancing computer technology is changing the landscape. CrowdScience listener Daniel wonders if we might finally be on the cusp of enabling machines to meld with our minds.
What if you could flip a switch and restore vision to a blind person? It sounds near-miraculous. And, yet, since the 1970s scientists have been trying to do just that. If they succeed, it won’t be a miracle. It will be a triumph of neuroscience and technology.
William Dobelle created the first “bionic eye” technology roughly four decades ago. Comprised of a tiny camera mounted in eyeglasses, a portable computer, and electrodes implanted in brain, the “Dobelle Eye” in effect used technology to mimic the electrical stimulation from the retina and optic nerve that results in vision. Read More
Brain-computer interfaces sound like the stuff of science fiction. Andrew Palmer sorts the reality
from the hype
IN THE gleaming facilities of the Wyss Centre for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, a lab technician takes a well plate out of an incubator. Each well contains a tiny piece of brain tissue derived from human stem cells and sitting on top of an array of electrodes. A screen displays what the electrodes are picking up: the characteristic peak-and-trough wave forms of firing neurons. Read More
The U.S. defense agency that specializes in “out-there” science and technology endeavors is on a quest to bridge the gap between brain and computer.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently awarded $65 million to six different teams that will begin developing neural implants that convert neural activity into 1s and 0s of digital code. It’s all part of the agency’s Neural Engineering System Design program that was announced by the Obama Administration in January 2016.
The Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative is aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. Long desired by researchers seeking new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, this picture will fill major gaps in our current knowledge and provide unprecedented opportunities for exploring exactly how the brain enables the human body to record, process, utilize, store, and retrieve vast quantities of information, all at the speed of thought.
Columbia Engineering researchers have, for the first time, harnessed the molecular machinery of living systems to power an integrated circuit from adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of life. They achieved this by integrating a conventional solid-state complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane containing ATP-powered ion pumps, opening the door to creating entirely new artificial systems that contain both biological and solid-state components.
IEEE Spectrum – For the first time, researchers have developed a microchip that is powered by the same energy-rich molecules that fuel living cells, researchers say. This advance could one day lead to devices that are implanted within cells and harvest biological energy to operate.
The molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores chemical energy and is used inside cells to ferry energy from where it is generated to where it is consumed. The new microchip relies on enzymes known as sodium-potassium ATPases. These molecules break down ATP to release energy the enzymes use to pump sodium and potassium ions across membranes, generating an electrical potential during the process.
This camera chip’s electrochemical imaging process is something like “taking a movie” over time, said Dr. Ken Shepard, a professor of electrical engineering and biomedical engineering and one of the researchers on the project. By recording the chemical activities of the bacteria, the researchers are able to learn more about the mechanisms that individual cells use to organize themselves into a community. Marshaling one billion individual P. aeruginosa cells into the colony formation pictured here, for instance, required a considerable amount of coordination on the part of the cells.