We react naturally to the signals our brains send out to our bodies. Science has long been able to listen into the signals the brain sends, but is just now learning to turn those signals into meaningful action. The result is restoring movement and speech to the disabled.
One such effort is Cyberkinetic’s BrainGate Neural Interface System, now undergoing clinical trials. The tiny chip was developed by Brown University’s John Donoghue, who serves as Cyberkinetic’s Chief Scientific Officer.
“Our research was to investigate the electrical signals in the brain,” says Donoghue, “and how they are transformed as these thoughts get changed over into actual control of your arm or your hand.”
“One of the big breakthroughs in neuroscience is that we can tap into signals [from the brain], and we get many complex electrical impulses from those neurons,” says Brown. “We can read out those signals, and by some not-to-complex mathematical techniques, we can put them back together in a way that we can interpret what the brain is trying to do.”
“In this trial,” he explains, “we’ve implanted a tiny chip in the brain and that tiny chip picks up signals about moving the arm.” The signal is then converted into simple commands that can be used to control computers, turn lights on and off, control a television set. Or, as Donoghue explains, “control robotic devices like an artificial hand… or a robotic arm.”