Imagine if all you had to do to turn on your television was just think about turning it on. It would cut down on the time spent trying to find the remote, right? Well, a team of thirty-nine scientists at the University of Melbourne are working on a technology that may evolve into just that. The stentrode, a device that would be placed against the brain, is being developed to take note of the electrical activity of the brain and turn it into thought.
“We have been able to create the world’s only minimally invasive device that is implanted into a blood vessel in the brain via a simple day procedure, avoiding the need for high-risk open brain surgery,” said Dr. Oxley, the leader of the team. Not only is this research being used to help paralyzed patients, but through studying the brain activity of those with epilepsy or severe seizures, the eradication of those diseases will be more closely met; thought can be used to force those negative reactions away.
Stentrode insertion and use
The stentrode, essentially “a stent covered in electrodes”, is administered through a catheter. The device flows through the catheter to sit at the base of the motor cortex, right on top of the corresponding blood vessel. Previous insertion of a device like this required open brain surgery, so this minimally invasive procedure is very exciting.
After it has been installed, the stentrode is paired with a movement device attached to the patient. For example, a patient paralyzed from the waist down would need compatible leg prosthetics as their movement devices. Through some training with repetitive thought and practice with the movement device, the patient will be able to gain full mobility with the equipment. “[Patients] can use their thoughts to control the movement systems attached to their bodies, allowing them to interact with their surroundings again.”
Trials have already been successful with animals, so human trials are soon to come.
This new technology will have a monumental impact on the patients for whom it was initially designed. By using the brain to control devices attached to them, these patients will be able to regain the independence they had once lost, whether it be through the personal use of new limbs or the conquering of a formerly untameable illness.
Though the current findings are mainly being used to benefit paralyzed and epileptic patients, there is no doubt that this could develop into so much more. Once an algorithm is found that can translate our electric brain activity, control of the electronics at our disposal could become limitless. The average man could potentially control the functions of his home, his car, and his work life, all through thought. But with thought being the only necessary action, it is very possible that this technology could lead to a world engaged in a more sedentary lifestyle. This implant could also present much opportunity for the military, which, after giving advanced implants to its members, could engage in combat without the risk of injury on site.
Also, the new implant technology could be a way to bring us all closer together. With the transmission of electrical brain activity comes the possibility of transmitting thought or even images. With an advancement like this brain implant, it is easy to see that we are not far off from a future heavily influenced by cybernetics. Movement systems controlled by the mind – is this where we see the start of cyborg creation?