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Brain Computer Interfaces Essay

1369 words - 5 pages

Until recently, our relationship with technology has been limited to physical and direct command. To get a device to take action, you must touch it, or speak to it. All of this could change with this new technology called, brain-computer interfaces. This amazing technology will not only revamp military applications, but most importantly help the medical community substantially. It brings the possibility of sound to the deaf, sight to the blind and movement to the physically challenged. However, with all great ideas there is a downside, there are many technical and ethical issues that people are not willing to risk.
A brain-computer interface, also known as a BCI, is technology that allows a device to respond neural signals from the brain and turn them into actions controlled by a subject (Kotchetkov 1). The device they use to achieve this is called an electroencephalograph, also referred to as EEG. They are two ways of using this device, invasive and non-invasive. The invasive method requires for the device to be implanted directly into the brain, while the non-invasive method only consists of placing the device on the surface of the scalp. The only reason why any of this technology exists is because of how our brain works. "Our brains are filled with neurons, individual nerve cells connected to one another by dendrites and axons.
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Every time we think, move, feel or remember something, our neurons are at work"
(Grabianowski 1).
Brain-computer interfaces provide a wide array of possibilities for people with physical disabilities. This could change the lives of thousands, think of all the people suffering from illnesses or complications such as paralysis, locked in syndrome, stroke or severe brain trauma. BCI's could insure them a better quality of life. Using the invasive method of BCI, Cathy Hutchinson, a patient suffering from quadriplegia, paralysis of both arms and legs, has experienced first-hand how beneficial the BCI can be. With the help of Dr. Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital, Huthinson was able to manipulate a robotic arm to serve herself coffee (Castillo 1). This may sound like a simple task for a normally functional person, but for someone who has been paralyzed for fifteen years this is ground breaking.
There have even been new studies of prosthetic limbs that have feeling. This would be perfect for someone who's limb may be absent, in their situation. The University of Chicago has been doing research on robotic limbs that can feel. They did experiments on monkeys since their sense of touch is so similar to humans.
The first set of experiments focused on contact location, or sensing where the skin has been touched. The animals were trained to identify several patterns of physical contact with their fingers. Researchers then connected electrodes to areas of the brain corresponding to each finger and replaced physical touches with electrical stimuli delivered to the appropriate areas...

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