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Biotech Medicine Science Technology

Better Brain Implants With Ultrathin Carbon Fiber Electrodes 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-track-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new neural interface delicate enough not to damage nerve tissue, but resilient enough to last decades has been made. Made from a single carbon fiber and coated with chemicals, the technology is believed to be fully resistant to proteins in the brain. From the article: 'The new microthread electrode, designed to pick up signals from a single neuron as it fires, is only about 7 micrometers in diameter. That is the thinnest yet developed, and about 100 times as thin as the conventional metal electrodes widely used to study animal brains. “We wanted to see if we could radically change implant technology,” says Takashi Kozai, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and the lead author on the paper, published today in the journal Nature Materials. “We want to see an electrode that lasts 70 years.”'"
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Better Brain Implants With Ultrathin Carbon Fiber Electrodes

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  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday November 11, 2012 @08:25PM (#41952931) Homepage
    I imagine that the many science fiction fans in this nerd community will remember the opening of Larry Niven's The Ringworld Engineers [amazon.com] . The protagonist Louis Wu has given up his friends, appetite for food and water and basically his whole life, content to sit still with an electrode delivering current straight to the pleasure centre of his brain. It's the ultimate addiction. Sure, this technology will probably bring myriad benefits, but doesn't it seem like there's some disquieting potential for misuse?
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @08:31PM (#41952957) Journal

    Assuming you do it correctly, you should be able to twiddle the brain's reward systems so as to produce sensations more pleasurable and fulfilling than any lesser stimulus.

    That sounds like one of the myriad benefits, to me...

  • by siddesu (698447) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @08:48PM (#41953033)

    This is the benign alternative. Consider the worse options -- from completely bogus ones like the Matrix, to completely possible ones like bugs in the first few generations that will wreak temporary havoc with your head and cause all sorts of trouble.

    I have a close relative who was mis-prescribed some drug with severe mental "side" effects. As a result of only a few doses, we had to take care of a person who turned schizophrenic by the medicine. It was awful and expensive, and neither the medical profession nor the pharmacological industry consider it a problem, just a "side effect".

  • by MangoCats (2757129) on Sunday November 11, 2012 @09:40PM (#41953271)

    there's some disquieting potential for misuse

    for anything. The more awesome the thing, the bigger the potential. Personally, I like Nuclear power, the global communication network, and nutella. While nutella is awesome, it's potential for misuse is proportional to its awesomeness, and you can't really misuse it the way you can an atomic chain reaction, or the internet.

    BTW, I'm named inventor on a patent [patentbuddy.com] for using carbon fiber to make an electrode "fuzzy" and therefore more solidly connected into a large nerve fiber. Personally, I think the concept is dead obvious to anyone "skilled in the art," but that didn't stop the lawyers from pursuing it and the company from paying bonuses to the inventors.

  • by jvonk (315830) on Monday November 12, 2012 @12:43AM (#41954073)

    Assuming you do it correctly, you should be able to twiddle the brain's reward systems so as to produce sensations more pleasurable and fulfilling than any lesser stimulus.

    That sounds like one of the myriad benefits, to me...

    Depends on your definition of "correctly". Based on the rest of your comment then perhaps the Olds' experiments with rats [cliffsnotes.com] would be ideal:

    In 1954, James Olds and Peter Milner discovered that a rat would press a bar to receive a brief impulse of electricity through an electrode implanted in certain areas of the brain. Although it was known that such stimulation in other areas of the brain could produce motivated behaviors of eating, drinking, sexual behavior, or aggression (and that lesions of the brain could produce the converse behaviors), it now appeared that psychologists had discovered a "brain reward" system. The ESB was serving as a reinforcer. Rats bar pressed at rapid rates for 15 to 20 hours until exhausted in order to receive the stimulation. During the process, they ignored food or water, and rat mothers ignored their pups.

    I'm libertarian, so I believe it would be your right to choose to pay to implant something like this if you were to make a fully informed, mentally competent decision to do so.

    However, I wouldn't want this: every other addiction has some form of intrinsic rate-limiting effect; be it passing out/hangovers for alcohol, male refractory periods for sex, dopamine receptor changes for cocaine, etc, etc. The "correct" implementation of something like this would have no such impediment to instant, ultimate junkie status.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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