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Biotech Medicine Science Technology

Brain-Computer Interface Still Going After 1,000 Days 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the has-not-assimilated-anyone-else-yet dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Remember BrainGate? The implanted system lets people with paralysis control computer cursors and other devices just by thinking about moving them with their hand. A new report shows that it is still going strong in a patient 1,000 days past her implant."
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Brain-Computer Interface Still Going After 1,000 Days

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  • Re:1000 days (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vesvvi (1501135) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:01AM (#35611638)

    The last time I saw a presentation on brain interface technology was almost a year ago, so I'm not 100% current either, but the current state of the art isn't that great.

    The fundamental problem is that the brain/hardware interface breaks down with time. In simple terms, it looks like the extremely soft brain tissue doesn't stand up to being in hard contact with the rigid electrodes (there's a nice picture in the article: they look like meat tenderizers). In the long run, there is formation of a buffer zone of unusable tissue between viable brain matter and the electrodes which blocks the signal. This is an area of substantial research: trying to build nanomaterials that serve as a good physical buffer between the brain and electrode, which is a non-trivial problem. Success in this goal can directly lead to longer-lived devices.

    So when they say

    no evidence has emerged of any fundamental incompatibility between the sensor and the brain

    that's not entirely honest. Yes, their sensor still works fine but they still need to adapt it to be more brain-compatible. My personal guess is that this one patient just happens to have a lucky brain composition/response.

  • Re:Quality of life? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thesandtiger (819476) on Friday March 25, 2011 @03:01PM (#35615888)

    Being able to make their bed raise/lower, change a channel, turn on/off/up/down the AC, close shades, turn on/off the television/radio, change channels/stations, surf the web, play some games, chat (slowly) with others online, and any number of other uses would be pretty huge I'd think. And easy to connect to a computer. And would lead to big QoL improvements; there's a pretty GIGANTIC difference between being able to do something yourself and needing to ask a caretaker to do it for you.

    I've a friend who is severely handicapped (thalidomide) and is 90% confined to a wheel chair as a result. He has little devices his dad made for him that allow him to do some tasks he previously had to ask for help on. We met through a role-playing gamer's group, and when we all brainstormed a way to set him up with a gadget that would let him pick and roll his own dice he was pretty freaking happy about it because it meant he no longer had to ask someone to do it for him.

    Hell, even in my own life, and I am fortunately quite able bodied, when I've had times where I wasn't able to do things for myself I would often choose to suffer in silence rather than ask a caretaker to do something for me because I didn't want to bother them. This can be huge.

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