Australian Scientists Found A Way To Control Machines With Your Mind, No Brain Surgery Required

Scientists Found a Way to Control Machines With Your Mind, No Brain Surgery Required

The US military is looking for ways to insert microscopic devices into human brains to help folks communicate with machines, like prosthetic limbs, with their minds. And now, Australian scientists are saying they have found a way to do just that -- without ripping open patients' skulls. In the DARPA-funded study, researchers at the University of Melbourne have developed a device that could help people use their brains to control machines. These machines might include technology that helps patients control physical disabilities or neurological disorders. The results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

In the study, the team inserted a paperclip-sized object into the motor cortexes of sheep. (That's the part of the brain that oversees voluntary movement.) The device is a twist on traditional stents, those teeny tiny tubes that surgeons stick in vessels to improve blood flow.

Scientists Found a Way to Control Machines With Your Mind, No Brain Surgery Required

This souped-up version, which the team calls a "stentrode", is a stent covered in electrodes and also sounds like it belongs in a cyborg. The strentrode snakes its way into blood vessels through a catheter that's stuck in the patient's neck, rather than in the skull. Existing brain-machine interfaces (BIMs) require cracking the patients' skull open in a procedure called a craniotomy. This involves removing part of the skull to access the brain.

The new development makes it easier to stick a computer chip or stentrode into a patient's head. Instead of open-brain surgery, the method of inserting a BMI through blood vessels in the neck reduces the risk of inflaming tissue and other risks involved in such horrifying, invasive surgery.

The team plans on testing the stentrode in humans sometime next year.

[Nature Biotechnology via DARPA]

Image via DARPA, GIF via University of Melbourne

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    Very cool stuff, one area of very cruel research I would and wouldn't want to see is whether doing a implant like this from very young ages makes the interface stronger and easier to control. It takes an average human around a year to stumble walk, 2 to have a conversation, etc. So surely having this implant ready to go from incredibly young ages would make it second nature for use.

    Things like this and the advanced prosthetics make me worry a lot less about old age. I'm only 29 now but by the time I'm 60 and may or may not need a replacement part these technologies are going to be so seamless it'll be ridiculous!

    While I think the original idea (control prosthetics, etc) is fantastic, the fact that the US military is involved would lead one to think that there is another more lethal agenda behind the project.

    I'm not a conspiracy theorist - just been around long enough to see what they've done in the past.

      The US military is involved with a ton of prosthetics research primarily because of the number of their personnel that have been terribly injured by roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. They spend thousands training people and want to be able to continue to employ them even after they're hurt, and prosthetics may be able to help with that.

      Also just because it's military-funded doesn't mean it's bad. Most of our modern technologies have spun out of military research money.

      The person behind this project was a very close school friend of mine, we actually grew up together until his intelligence projected him into a different crowd to my own (seriously, he's brilliant!). From the man himself (a comment made on FB), the reason it was funded by DARPA is because the idea was so out there, they were the only ones prepared to fund it!

      So yeah, DARPA may have other ideas, but the inspiration itself is pure and gentle genius looking for an outlet.

    Awwww yis. And those of us who rapidly mentally adapt to navigating purely conceptual spaces (such as gamers) will be the new elite soldiers as we pilot deadly MECHS into battle against impoverished rebels!

    Ahh, such an empowering nightmare future.

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