Brain control: future ideas

BBC Future AMA: I’m Nicholas Opie, a biomedical engineer at the University of Melbourne, Australia. I’m here to answer questions about brain-controlled devices and neural implants. AMA!

Check out this Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Nicholas Opie, one of the speakers who will be at BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit (the event we recently ran a Facebook competition for).

He introduces his AMA with an explanation about his work with ‘stentrodes’ aka brain-controlled devices:

I am a biomedical engineer and founding CTO of SmartStent. I lead a research team conducting trials on a device called a ‘stentrode’, capable of recording neural information from within blood vessels. Technology like this may enable direct brain control of wheelchairs, exoskeletons and computers to people with paralysis as early as 2018.
A stentrode is a stent-based electrode array that is implanted by cerebral angiography (through the neck). This minimally invasive day procedure will allow access to areas of the brain that control the movement of limbs without having to perform much more invasive open brain surgery.

In his AMA, he reveals that his group are planning on conducting a pilot clinical trial in 2018 to connect an individual’s brain with a computer!

In this system, the device actually detects the electrical signals from neurons which sit very closely to blood vessels, rather than detecting blood itself. It also is eventually overgrown with epithelial cells so that it embeds itself, as this is intended to be permanently embedded into a person.

The full AMA is worth a read as he provides full detailed responses to questions ranging from everything about the possiblility of hacking of these “control systems” by malicious people to the hurdles that this type of technology needs to overcome.

There are already other examples in which researchers are looking at how to improve the quality of life of humans with electrical stimulation and neuron hacking with electrical pulses.

Read more: One step closer to bionic humans — a story about using artificial electrical impulses to move otherwise paralysed limbs.

The applications for strentrodes is a promising idea and it could revolutionise the lives of many people, he goes on to say “The primary question we have is not whether it will work, but how well it will work.”

And, as far as we’re concerned, it’s definitely a world-changing idea.

  • Read the full Reddit AMA here

Originally published on Australia’s Science Channel: