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How Do Neural Implants Work?


A neural implant is a brain-computer interface with electronic circuitry programmed to communicate seamlessly with or hack the brain’s neurons with little or no side effects.

Scientists are optimistic that anything the human nervous system does can be helped, healed, or enhanced using neural implants. Today’s implants are made from tungsten, silicon, platinum-iridium, stainless steel, and a variety of other materials.

Current Neural Implant Applications

Doctors treating today’s Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients routinely implant electrodes in the deep brains of patients that act as a “brain pacemaker.” Deep brain stimulation (DBS) occurs as implants emit electrical impulses that help significantly reduce motor symptoms caused by PD. 

DBS is approved in the United States by the FDA to treat Crohn’s disease, dystonia, epilepsy, heart failure, migraine, neuropathic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injuries, stroke, Tourette’s syndrome, type 2 diabetes, psychiatric disorders such as depression and other ailments.

Doctors are also treating patients with vagus nerve/cranial nerve stimulation to help improve the function of the heart, lungs, digestive system, and other organs and prosthetic neuronal memory silicon chip implants to help patients use mind-controlled prosthesis.

Fortunately, due to recent advances in computer processing power and neurophysiology, the power and efficacy of neural implants are rapidly increasing.

Detecting, Recording & Bidirectionally Transmitting Electric Brain Signals

Research centers at Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of California and around the world are constantly innovating to miniaturize neural implants to dust size, creating a nanoelectronic thread, develop stent-like electrodes aka “stentrodes”, and create injectable mesh made of silicon nanowires and implants that can record information emitted by neurons. 

New companies including Elon Musk’s Neuralink (white paper) are building high bandwidth implants called brain-machine interfaces (BMI) to mitigate the potential threat of AI to the human species. Neuralink has developed a new neurosurgical robot to implant thousands of micron-sized electrodes in the brain and human trials are set to get underway later this year.

According to Patel and Leiber: “If you can understand the language of the brain, its code, the spatial localization of neural firing patterns, you can use electrical stimulation to artificially input information into the brain to control thoughts and behavior.”

Human Brain/Cloud Interface research notes that “the Internet comprises a decentralized global system that serves humanity’s collective effort to generate, process, and store data, most of which is handled by the rapidly expanding cloud. A stable, secure, real-time system may allow for interfacing the cloud with the human brain.” The human brain has 86 x 10^9 neurons and 2 x 10^14 synapses. The goal is to transmit all of this information wirelessly to external computers at a rate of 6 x 10^16 bits per second using nanorobotic fiber optics connected to a cloud-based supercomputer. 

With bidirectional communication, humans could re-experience early episodes in their lives and experience the lives of others in the same way to improve human understanding of cultural and racial differences.

Breakthrough in Non-Invasive Mind Control of Robotic Limbs

Image: By Gerd Altmann from Pixabay