Usually, when we talk about cyborgs, or chips that are injected in human bodies, it is within the context of fiction. However, it all is becoming a reality as we come across real life events where scientists connect a human brain to a tablet to allow a paralyzed patient to communicate with the world, or use brain implants that boost memory capacity.
Technology is advancing super-fast, and researchers and scientists around the world are leaving no stone unturned in combing tech with bio to make the world a better place to live.
Here are 4 unbelievable real examples where scientists successfully merged a human brain with a machine:
1) Memory Boosting Brain Implant
Memory loss is way more common than we think. Every year millions of people have to bear the agony of failing memory, and there are a number of reasons behind that. While sportspersons lose memory due to painful brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke continue to be two of the most common problems behind ailing memory.
Even those who lead a healthy life eventually come to a point where memory capacity begins to deteriorate. Thus, the act was inescapable, until now.
Dr. Theodore Berger, who is a biochemical engineer at South California University is working on a memory boosting implant that can replicate the behaviour of neurons, in the way how they process signals during storage of fresh long term memories. The memory booster implant is already looking promising, for it presented with impressive results when tested on rats and monkeys.
Hippocampus is a part of our brain which is responsible for turning short term memories into long term memories. Berger spent about 35 years trying to understand how neurons are affected in that region when the conversion takes place.
Since a memory is nothing but a series of electrical pulses that are generated over a certain time by a certain number of neurons, he decided to learn the pattern, which is the key to replicating memory generation.
2) Brain Connectivity with a Tablet Device
T6 was the first person with paralyses to control a nexus tablet with nothing but her brain waves, and with that the world was shaken. It was a big achievement after all. She had volunteered for the BrainGate clinical trials two year before the event and the team made a breakthrough in merging human brain with technology.
T6 is a brunette in her 50s and suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease that causes motor neuron damage in a progressive manner. After she volunteered for the clinical trials the team implanted a 100 channel electrode ray in the left side of her brain, the side responsible for movements and coordination.
During this time Dr. Paul Nuyujukian, who is a physician and a neuroengineer, and a part of the BrainGate managed to connect the implanted electrodes with Nexus 9 tablet, using a prototype prosthetic device.
The electrodes registered T6’s brain activity as she looked at a specific letter on the tablet screen, and the transmitted it to the neuroprosthesis, which then converted it into appropriate cursor movements and clicks.
3) Biological Computing
When the researchers from Germany and Japan decided to simulate the activity of an actual human brain they came close to achieving just one percent of it, and even that by using one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers! This is a quintessential example of the power of a human brain.
So, what if we could use the actual brain cells to power a computer? Sounds like a figment of a sci-fi movie, isn’t it? However, Koniku, a California based start-up by neuroscientist Osh Agabi has already developed a 64-neuron silicon chip- a computer chip made from 64 neurons of a brain!
To develop a neuron chip, Agabi’s team overcame three herculean challenges- arranging the neurons exactly the way they are arranged in our brains, creating a stable environment for the neurons, and reading and writing information in them. The team used stem cell technology for the creation of neurons.
They placed individual neurons in special shells which allowed them to control their pH levels and temperatures. Every shell was also connected to an electrode with which they sent information to the neurons.
According to Agabi, once the neurochip is sufficiently improved it could be used for controlling drones that could smell explosives, which will also be one of the initial applications of the technology.
4) Nanobots in Our Brains
According to Ray Kurzweil, who is the director of engineering at Google, by 2030s we will be able to experience full virtual reality immersion with the help of Nano-Robots that will reach inside our brains and connect our neocortex with cloud, just the way we expand the power of our smart-phones with cloud today. For someone whose 115 out of 147 predictions have come true in the past, the statement can be plausible.
Kurzweil was attending at event that was organized by Singularity University at Moffett Field when he shared his insight on what AI and nanorobotics hold for us in future. He said that we will be able to expand our neurocortex in the near future, and it will allow us to add additional abstraction levels to our personality. “We are going to be more musical, we are going to be funnier, we are going to be sexier and be better at expression more loving sentiments.” he added.
Technology has already changed our lives on so many levels today, and the future looks promising as well. With the merging of our brains (the computational power of which is unmatched) with machines we can expand our mental capacities a thousand times more that they are now. It goes without saying that the next 10 years will bring a lot of new inventions and discoveries.