Type Words Just by Thinking Them

Scientists at Stanford have developed a brain implant that allowed a man with paralyzed hands to “type” words just by thinking them. According to the findings, the man was able to type up to 90 characters per minute. This is a big improvement over past implants. Previous options have relied on the patients using their thoughts to move cursors to specific characters on a digital keyboard. With this new implant, people would be able to freely type and communicate via text by simply thinking about the words that they want to use.

One of the main focuses of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) is to restore motor skills such as talking and moving to people who have lost those abilities. With this new implant, scientists trying to build off of that idea by using an intracortical BCI that decodes the handwriting movements and neural activity in the motor cortex. The implant then takes that information and translates it to text in real-time. Essentially, it allows the person with the implant to think about writing a letter or word. That letter or word is then translated into text, allowing for quick communication from the user.

When tested, the implant was able to achieve a 94.1 percent raw accuracy when online. It was also able to deliver 99 percent accuracy when offline. This number is comparable to the typical smartphone typing speeds of individuals in the age group of the test’s participant.

When we really understand the brain through neuroscience in the coming decades, we should be able to do much better in a wider variety of tasks,” Krishna Shenoy, a neuroscientist and engineer, said during the WE Summit (via the South China Morning Post).

We’ve already seen brain implants allowing blind users to see shapes. Shenoy believes that these findings are just the “tip of the iceberg”. With more testing and engineering, the implants they use could provide even stronger results.

The group originally published its work in Nature in May, with a full presentation released at a recent science teleconference called the WE Summit.

Source: https://bgr.com/

Brain Implants Imminent

It’s inevitable that we’ll see brain implants become a common piece of technology — first for those who suffer from certain neurological disorders like epilepsy, then later on as an enhancement for the average person looking for a cognitive boost. Despite growing research and development in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), there has been little progress when it comes to the ethics of this technology.

Two new papers have been published by researchers with North Carolina State University addressing the ethical matters around BCI technology, including external devices that aren’t implanted and internal devices that are implanted in the brain. The researchers pay particular focus on implanted BCIs and such technologies intended for cognitive enhancement.

Put simply, BCI devices are designed to take brain signals and translate them into data for a computer to utilize. Perhaps the best example of such technology comes from Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which recently gave a demonstration of a brain implant involving pigs. Musk presented the technology as promising for people suffering from neurological conditions, among other things.

The invasive devices are more efficient, since they can read signals directly from the brain. However, they also raise more ethical concerns. For example, invasive BCI technologies carry more associated risks such as surgery, infection, and glial scarring – and invasive BCI devices would be more difficult to replace as technology improves.” said Veljko Dubljević, a co-author on both of the new papers, pointing out the particularly tricky issue of implants.

Among other things, the papers note that there are two areas, in particular, that should get priority when it comes to exploring ethical considerations: the psychological and physical effects of brain-computer interfaces. Multiple issues are presented, including the potential long-term effects of these devices, whether it is ethical to use animals to test invasive technologies, and what kind of psychological effects may manifest related to various BCI technologies.

The researchers present one example of potential unwanted psychological outcomes, noting a study in which people with epilepsy were given an advanced warning of seizures via an invasive BCI — and some of those patients went on to develop ‘radical psychological distress’ as a result. The researchers also explore the potential future use of BCIs for enhancing cognition, a technological future that would expand beyond the current trend of using ‘smart drugs.’ If someone with an enhancing implant takes a test, are the results ‘authenticas they would be from someone who doesn’t have a BCI?

Source: https://www.slashgear.com/

How To Control Computers With The Mind

A new type of brain implant allows a paralyzed person to learn how to control a computer cursor with their mind. This kind of technology could be revolutionary for people with very limited mobility as it could open up computer-based communication and give them more freedom in every day life.

So-called ‘brain-computer interfaces’ have been developed for this purpose before, but a key problem with them was that the user had to retrain on a daily basis, making progress difficultBrain-computer interface implants work by a user thinking about moving the cursor on a screen in different directions by imagining they are moving their arm and neck in a specific way.  Electrical impulses picked up by the brain implant allow the cursor to move. A computer algorithm then ‘learns’ how the brain signals correlate to the cursor movements and adjusts them giving the implant user control.

This is akin to relearning how to move your arm every day,” explained Karunesh Ganguly, an associate professor in neurology at the University of California San Francisco, who led the current research.

Previous implants have had “technical issues related to having small wires in the brain that are not stable over time,” he added.

Source: https://www.ucsf.edu/
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