Pentagon research arm DARPA has handed out about $US15 million to various institutions to research new implants that would replace damaged parts of the brain, allowing people to return to normal.
The implants developed by the project will likely be composed of electrodes or optical fibers, and will sit on the surface of the brain. They'll read electrical signals from neurons, and deliver appropriate light pulses to stimulate other brain regions in response. The implants would allow the brain to operate normally, by acting as substitutes for areas that were damaged or "unavailable."
But here's where my freshman year philisophy class comes in handy: if we're replacing parts of the brain, is it still the same person? What percentage of the brain can be replaced before the person is more implant than person? 20%? 51%? 95%? Will people be really the same or will they be made more "generic?" Or will the brain adapt to the new implants, retaining the personhood and using the implant to return to normalcy?
We'll see, I guess! They're hoping to start testing on lab animals within four years, so hopefully by the time my brain starts to go they'll have these things really humming. [Danger Room]