Scientific developments can have a major impact on society as we know it. Brain implants, while still widely considered to be controversial, will undoubtedly continue to play a role of importance. The BrainGate programme is one of those ventures few people are aware of, but it is just one example of what the future may hold. The Utah Array is another intriguing example of how brain implants of the future may work.
What is BrainGate?
Stimulating and somewhat manipulating brain cells is a matter of significant debate among scientists. Although there are vast advantages to this field of research, one cannot overlook the ethical aspects of implanting chips into a human brain. In the case of BrainGate, the team is looking to build and test devices which will unlock the era of transformative neurotechnology. Their core design revolves around using an array of microelectrodes to be implanted in the human brain.
In the real world, BrainGate has allowed people to regain control over their limbs after suffering spinal cord injuries or brainstem stroke. While clinical research is still in the very early stages as of right now, one cannot deny this technology has a lot of promise. With a growing focus on giving patients intuitive control over prosthetic limbs or assistive movement and communication devices, a lot of people can benefit from this technology in the decades to come.
The Utah Array
Another interesting advancement in this field of research goes by the name of Utah Array, It has been in development for over two decades, and aim to record large populations of neurons. During the early stages of research, the team focused its attention on both humans and animals alike. Successes have been achieved by recording neurons in humans, birds, felines, and fish. Quite an impressive feat of strength for such a controversial technology.
Combined with a pneumatic inserter, it becomes possible to implant microelectrode arrays into the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerve tissue. This will allow patients to experience aspects of their life they previously thought to be lost forever. It is another way of advancing neuroscience research on a global scale. Despite a lot of high expectations, the technology still has a very long way to go.
Overcoming the Shortcomings
In the case of the Utah Array, the biggest drawback is how the system isn’t wireless. There is a socket protruding from patients’ skulls which need to be connected to a wire. Through this wire, computers can decode the signal from the brain and turn it into a task to be executed. That doesn’t make the system less viable than any other on the market, but it is evident that no one wants to run around with a wire looping into their skull at all times.
Thankfully, the advancements in the world of brain implants are never too far away. BrainGate, as well as numerous other ventures, are currently in the process of developing commercial hardware which will revolutionize neuroscience. More importantly, they are looking to build the tools needed so this technology can be utilized by everyone, regardless of their physical condition. A lot of progress is expected to materialize over the next decade or so. Human brains won’t be replaced by these implants anytime soon, but it is no longer completely unrealistic either.