The human brain is a tool, full of mystery, and evolving every day. Imagine for a moment that there was a way to completely unlock and understand the mind in ways that science never imagined possible. This is the goal a team of neuroscientists at Brown University, University of California at San Diego, and Qualcomm is hoping to achieve. The hope is that research into brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) with advanced sensors will one day assist in eliminating or slowing the progress of brain and spinal cord injuries. BCIs are implanted computers with thousands of neural pathway sensors that detect and interpret brain signals and may eventually be given the capacity to produce stimuli where the brain is lacking. The systems being developed at Brown University, which are currently being tested on mice, have proven to surpass currently available technology. The sensors would be packed into a small wearable skin patch about the size of a fingerprint and readings would be sent to a computer or portable device. The goal of the study is to achieve as many signals as possible from living brain tissue.
The obstacles of testing come from precisely probing of the brain. If successful, this new BCI could not only help with spinal cord injuries but neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, motor skill impairments, and even dementia as well as assist in the treatment of brain injuries. Finding a comfortable yet secure prosthetic is the other hurdle teams are facing, with devices needing to produce accurate readings while avoiding a massive hinderance to mobility.
The scientists involved in the project have an extremely positive outlook for what this study could mean for the future of neuroscience and medicine in general.