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Ultrathin Silk-Based Brain Implants

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  • by allaunjsilverfox2 (882195) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:45AM (#31935902) Homepage Journal
    Kinda like the interface from avatar. And just about every other Science Fiction story I've read.
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:54AM (#31935942)

    Ok. I've got the guy's brain in the silk bag, how do I set up the interface now?

    • by idji (984038) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:23AM (#31936288)
      it's really often very scary what gets tagged informative or funny on slashdot.
      • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:41AM (#31936360)

        I don't know if it's the case, but I think at some point in the past, some people decided to stop using "Funny" because the combination of a "+1 Funny" with a "-1 Overrated" ended up being a -1 on karma, which could make a single unevenly popular joke empty any amount of karma.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          "Funny" gains no karma. The way to tell if someone doesn't care about karma? If they joke a lot, they're no karma whore. And some of us are swimming in karma and really don't worry about it.

          • by ajrs (186276)

            "Funny" gains no karma. The way to tell if someone doesn't care about karma? If they joke a lot, they're no karma whore. And some of us are swimming in karma and really don't worry about it.

            I can tell you care about Karma because you didn't make a joke.

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              I can tell you care about Karma because you didn't make a joke.

              You must not visit here often.

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)
      What was his name - Abby Normal?
  • Oblig XKCD (Score:5, Informative)

    by rachit (163465) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:59AM (#31935960)
    • Perfect.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ultranova (717540)

      You know, if you connected a USB port to a brain, the chances are that you would learn to control USB devices with it eventually. You'd need some extra electronics to handle the interface - since USB is a high-frequency serial bus and brain uses low-frequency parallel bus - but this far, it seems that simply patching the signals from/to somewhere in the brains is sufficient for them to adapt.

      That's only natural, really: converting signals between different levels of abstraction, inferring conclusions, and c

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bytesex (112972)

        Maybe. I just don't see how your body is going to put the 5 Volt on it, though. Or, more importantly, how your body is going to cope with the Amperage if some device down the line short-circuits it.

        • by ultranova (717540)

          Maybe. I just don't see how your body is going to put the 5 Volt on it, though.

          Like I said, it would need some adapter electronics. The USB power requirement could be met with a glucose fuel cell, perhaps?

          Or, more importantly, how your body is going to cope with the Amperage if some device down the line short-circuits it.

          Hey, I never said it's a good idea ;). Anyway, we could deal with this by using a wireless transmitter between the brain-silk and external devices; this would also solve the problems asso

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mcgrew (92797) *

        The brain doesn't use a bus, its connections are parallell yet serial. Nothing man has devised is anywhere near as complex. We know vastly more about the brain than we did fifty years ago, and we still know next to nothing about it.

        If this were as advanced as some of you guys are making it out to be, blindness, deafness, and paralysis would be a thing of the past. We're still a long way from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

        • Mod parent up. He's completely right--the electrical signals of the brain have to be interpreted by computer software in order to do the most basic of functions. It took years just to get a monkey to move a robotic arm, or a quadriplegic to use a computer mouse. You can't just connect something to the brain and expect it to eventually work.
        • by ultranova (717540)

          The brain doesn't use a bus, its connections are parallell yet serial. Nothing man has devised is anywhere near as complex.

          True, but that's true of life in general. Also, modern microchips are getting close.

          We know vastly more about the brain than we did fifty years ago, and we still know next to nothing about it.

          We know, in general terms, how it works. We know how neural networks work, we know what areas of brain do what. We don't have a complete model of it yet, but that's mainly a question of sheer amo

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            Yes, I'm certain you'll have to wait a long time for a fictional future to come true.

            I'm 58; I already live in a science fiction world. When I started reading science fiction at age twelve there was no space travel, no self-opening doors, no PCs, no microwave ovens, no flat screen TVs, no cell phones, no way to record a TV show, etc.

            I've already waited a long time for a fictional future to come true, and it has.

            • no space travel, no self-opening doors, no PCs, no microwave ovens, no flat screen TVs, no cell phones, no way to record a TV show, etc.

              Of the things on your list, only the PC, flat screen TV, and cell phone did not exist in some form in 1964. Hand-held two-way radios did, so cell phone is stretching it a bit. PC is stretching it a bit too, because there were single-user minicomputer around that time.

              As someone half your age, I find it slightly sad that flat screen TV is the defining feature of your science fiction world.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by mcgrew (92797) *

                In 1964 Yuri Gagarin had gone to space (and straight back down) only three years earlier; space flight was in its infancy (I posit that it still is). Space stations (the Russian MIR was the first) were far into the future, as were communications satellites (IINM the first was launched that year). There was no GPS, of course.

                There were no self-opening doors; in Disney's biography, it notes that some time after Star Trek debued, Disney went to Paramount to try to get the tech for the self-opening doors, only

              • Thats because you're a bollock brained idiot. n/t
        • If this were as advanced as some of you guys are making it out to be, blindness, deafness, and paralysis would be a thing of the past.

          We have achieved some great leaps in those fields. There was a woman who spent a lot of money to get an electric eye implanted in her. And she could identify shapes of objects placed within 4 feet of her. She described it as many tiny bumps appearing and disappearing rapidly, but otherwise couldn't describe it.
          And even those with lesser deafness can get hearing aids. And like that XKCD comic, Somewhere in a lab there are monkeys controlling robotic arms with just their brains. We've made simulations that yo

        • If this were as advanced as some of you guys are making it out to be, blindness, deafness, and paralysis would be a thing of the past. We're still a long way from Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

          Yeah, for one thing the clerk at 7-11 totally refused to let me pay in whuffie.

    • by gringer (252588)

      at least in that comic, he's asking for an arm implant. The body tries its hardest to keep foreign stuff out of the brain (possibly including immune cells, I can't quite remember) -- I'd rather keep it that way.

  • I for one, welcome our new, silk-laden, cyborg overlords...

    • I for one, welcome our new, silk-laden, cyborg overlords...

      Or maybe our new, silk-laden arachnid overlords?

      • by cmdr_tofu (826352)

        The Spiderians are actually more closely related to Earth-elephants than they are to Earth spiders.

  • by !eopard (981784) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:01AM (#31935972)
    The brain is a three dimensional matrix, however TFA only mentions wrapping around what appears to be the outer surface of the brain. How much of the brains' functions are available purely via the outer surface?
    • by toastar (573882)

      Believe it or not the soft tissue of the brain is easier to read through then the skull, not to mention the problem of refraction.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Quite a bit is localized to the cortex, such as motor control [uwinnipeg.ca]. It's also used for higher thought, but that's too random to really do much with. Humans have the most advanced cortex of any animal, although that also means it's thicker (1.5 - 4.5 mm) [washington.edu], which may present the problem you propose.
    • Luckily it doesn’t matter much. It’s not about what we can access. (There is a much better interface to that, called speech! ;)
      It’s about plain interfacing. With feedback. And in that matter, the brain can without any trouble reconfigure itself (=training/learning) to do whatever you want.
      It’s what you do all day long anyway.

      Remember those experiments where they stuck a couple of wires in a monkey’s head, and he “magically” learned to use them to control a robotic arm... in addition to his other limbs!
      That’s what I mean.

      If you know how a (really any) dynamic neural net works, it’s obvious. (But it gets harder with old age. Though I think there are drugs that can partially undo it. But you don’t want to mess with those, since it’s the same thing as forgetting old habits... and you may find yourself forgetting someone or how to do something important.)

      I have no doubt, that you can train yourself to send any patterns of signals over those wires. And sense anything that’s coming in As long as they are below your brain’s maximum resolution (in time and space) and in the proper voltage/current range.

      • by gringer (252588)

        Luckily it doesn’t matter much. It’s not about what we can access. (There is a much better interface to that, called speech! ;)
        It’s about plain interfacing. With feedback. And in that matter, the brain can without any trouble reconfigure itself (=training/learning) to do whatever you want.
        It’s what you do all day long anyway.

        Sorry for trotting this out again, but why do we need to use the brain if it's about interfacing and feedback rather than access? Surely a less invasive place (e.g. arm, leg) would be just as effective, and less likely to cause problems.

        Oh, BTW, when did sigs stop appearing for non-registered users?

        • Actually I don’t think we do need it. But it certainly is simpler to get a higher bandwidth with so much neural contact surface. Also, I don’t think normal nerves can adapt that much, if at all. And finally, Laying something on your brain may not be as invasive as splicing nerves close to your back bone.
          I think the main problem with dedicated nerves (e.g. in arms or legs), is that you can either use them for their normal function, or of your interface. Not both. So you’d have to e.g. wiggl

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        There is a much better interface to that, called speech!

        Speech is an incredibly bad interface or nobody would ever be misunderstood.

        And sense anything that's coming in As long as they are below your brain's maximum resolution (in time and space) and in the proper voltage/current range.

        The brain is not elecrtical, it's electrochemical, with most connections being purely chemical. Thought, senses, movement, are really just complex chemical reactions.

        • Speech is an incredibly bad interface or nobody would ever be misunderstood.

          Don’t mix up language with speech! I agree on the language part. But that’s simply a matter of which language you choose. Just like with electronic interface data formats.
          Also, It’s the only quick way to transport the whole information. Emotional and logical content, accentuation, etc. This text here, for example, still misses all my accentuation, and therefore, if you expect something I say to be accented in an angry way, you may mod me troll, even when I, myself did not mean it angry at

    • by pieisgood (841871) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:42AM (#31936604) Journal
      The brains cortex is where all the processing is done. When we go deeper into the brain what you get are long axons that interconnect regions of the brain. In the middle of the brain is the corpus collosum which acts an information transfer center from the left to the right brain and vice versa. Now the cortex its self is a 3 dimensional matrix, as you said. I doubt we will be able to (in any near future scenario) build small enough electrodes and exact placement techniques as to make brain implants that function perfectly along side our own brain activity. This silk interface is good for rough signaling and signal reception... which is a great first step. /tangent
  • welcome our new silkworm overlords. You wouldn't think that they would pass up a chance to control our brains by pooping silk into them, would you?
  • Bring it on (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wolvenhaven (1521217) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:07AM (#31935984) Homepage
    Just what I want, pop ups in my head triggering all my senses. Although 90% of it will be porn so we shouldn't complain. Along with that, full sensory recording would be really cool.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      This isn't about wiring your brain to the internet, it's about wiring cameras to blind people's visual cortexes, microphones to deaf folks' auditory cortexes, and using thought to control artificial limbs. We're a LONG way from directly accessing the internet with your brain.

      • Actually, "the computer", and by extension "the internet" would be just another device to control as far as these interfaces go. In the various cybernetic monkey experiments, the robotic parts ultimately become an extension of the body; a two way digital communication link to the outside world would probably be adapted to in the same way; eventually the user would sort of "think at" the link to be able to read and write information. Would work a lot like io completion ports and device registers, which is

  • Ahh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by djupedal (584558) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:07AM (#31935988)
    For the softness she wants and the protection you need....
  • Now I'm going to be having nightmares about having Brain Spiders for a month...
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:12AM (#31936008)

    Engineers have now designed silk-based electronics that stick to the surface of the brain, similar to the way a silk dress clings to the hips.

    From TFA. Now, what is on those engineers' minds . . . ?

    Can someone tell me what the Large Hadron Collider is with a woman's fashion analogy . . . ?

    "The Large Hadron Collider is leaking liquid helium again today . . . it's like having a run in your stockings. It has been patched with nail polish."

    • by timmarhy (659436)
      they probably haven't been laid in a long time i suspect..
    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Can someone tell me what the Large Hadron Collider is with a woman's fashion analogy . . . ?

      It's like an expensive pair of shoes that look great but are a terrible fit. Most of the time you curse spending all that money on them because you hardly get a chance to use them but they're so darn cute you keep trying anyway.

      (Minutes ago, I yelled across the house, "hon, can you think of a shoe analogy for the LHC?")

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Funny, I was thinking how much this was like the implant in John Crichton's head in Farscape.

    • by Tx (96709)

      I always wondered what the "Neural Lace" implants in Iain M. Banks' Culture novels were made of; perhaps the fabric implication of the word "lace" is about more than structure after all.

  • by stevediver (1034380) <{spt29970} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:14AM (#31936018)
    cobwebs on the brain.
  • by H0D_G (894033) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:35AM (#31936104)

    I wanted one that I could click my fingers to open

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Long_Game [wikipedia.org]

  • by mindbrane (1548037) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @02:12AM (#31936240) Journal
    Nature went to a lot of trouble to isolate our brains. In terms of the skull, the Pia Mater [wikipedia.org] and the blood-barrier [wikipedia.org]. I don't know if I'm ready to go sticking stuff in there, especially in light of evolution's work to keep stuff out, and, our still insufficient knowledge of the brain.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lotana (842533)

      I don't know if I'm ready to go sticking stuff in there, especially in light of evolution's work to keep stuff out, and, our still insufficient knowledge of the brain.

      No one is talking about starting to implanting things right now. These are the first steps. Of course researchers will be careful to make sure it is safe (Or at least worth the risk) before starting human trials.

      And this is a very important area of study. Imagine someone that is paralysed or missing a limb. If we can build artificial limbs and able to interface it directly without causing infections or rejections, this will substantially improve their quality of life!

      This is actually very exciting news. We

      • So fine then, unless you are a monkey in a research lab. So perhaps we should prepare to welcome our simian cybernetic overlords....
    • Implants for instractable epilepsy and other neurological conditions have existed for many years and are tolerated well.
  • Inaccessible areas (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:02AM (#31936440)

    thin and flexible enough to reach previously inaccessible areas of the brain.

    The back of your mind?

    The tip of your tongue?

    The part that eats in moderation, stops drinking early, wins the girl and wears the condom?

  • by fredrik70 (161208) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:04AM (#31936446) Homepage

    I read that as 'Ultrathin Silk-Based Breast Implants'...

    oops.. oh well, shows what goes on in my head...

  • Made in... (Score:3, Funny)

    by ZirconCode (1477363) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @03:08AM (#31936462)
    Made in China
  • Just in time!!

  • Hopefully this will turn into something useful for handicaps we haven't been able to tackle yet such as psychological disorders and perhaps even color blindness. I for one would love to see what enhancements get developed. I've always been curious what it would be like to experience the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum I don't have sense organs for, not to mention being able to record my dreams. Add an internet connection and it all goes to hell in a hand basket! Welcome to the construct!

    • by plastbox (1577037)
      For extra senses, see sensory substitution. Tons of research show again and again that sensory information from outside sources (camera, touch-gloves, balance magnets, compass etc.) presented to the brain through the skin/tongue using vibrators or electrodes are integrated into ones perception of the world. I don't think you can record your dreams since every brain is rather different, but research has shown that what you see is "projected" onto your visual cortex in a way that makes it possible for resear
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Hopefully this will turn into something useful for handicaps we haven't been able to tackle yet such as psychological disorders and perhaps even color blindness

      Color blindness* is caused by the retina's cones being the wrong size; the only way this would help that is to have cameras wired into the brain. Correcting color blindness wouldn't be worth it, but it would be to someone who is totally blind.

      * Actually the "color blind" do see color; my dad's color blind. They just don't see the same colors as we do

  • I prefer the way velvet feels, actually. I know it's not as clingy, but it breathes better.

    And we all know the brain needs oxygen.

  • by Lotana (842533)

    This is awesome! I hope this research will not encounter any major barriers and we will finally have a way to interface with the brain directly.

    What an amazing age we live in.

    • Just in case you dont know yet we CAN do that already. We call it reasoning.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      What an amazing age we live in.

      Amazing, yes, but primitive. It always seems like the "now" is advanced; to me, it's all science fiction come true. But look back at today in thirty years and you'll marvel at how you got by without [not yet invented tech] and how primitive it was back then (now).

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @05:53AM (#31937088)

    Current implants all use biologically inert man made substances. With silk being a biological substance isn't there a high chance of rejection from the immune system? Not something you really want to happen inside your skull.

  • It sounds very much like the sort of thing used in "The Long Run" by Daniel Keys Moran.

    Sign me up!

  • I knew Iain M Banks was on to something.

  • Worms (Score:3, Funny)

    by pipingguy (566974) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @12:58PM (#31942606) Homepage
    Wait - isn't silk made by worms? So now we have computer AND brain worms? Aaaarghhhh!

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