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The Matrix

Journal BWJones's Journal: Bionic implants 10

New JonesBlog update. Bionic implants

The device seen in these images is called the Utah Electrode Array (WARNING: potentially graphic image after the jump of an implant in a human brain). The Utah Electrode Array is a brain implant technology developed here at the University of Utah by Richard Normann. The purpose of this device, built by currently built for us by Blackrock Microsystems is to transduce signals from external devices to deliver to the brain for interpretation. Alternatively, the device can record impulses generated in the brain for delivery of neural signals to external devices. Our potential interests in this approach are manifold, but real use and implementation of these devices is some years away still.

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Bionic implants

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  • What kind of training is required to get the brain to pick up signals? I assume you could do something like have a 10x10 grid of pixels, each one on or off and the brain would be able to eventually figure out some kind of rudimentary sight?

    • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *

      No training required and yeah... that is the idea with a grid of pixels. Lots of basic science questions to answer though.

      • by lab16 ( 416283 )

        I recall hearing a number of years ago that people who have been blind from birth wouldn't be able to see even if their eyes were somehow fixed because the portion of their brains that would normally be used for processing sight signals would develop to be utilized for other tasks and sensory input, and that once they grow to be adults, that portion of the brain is mostly hard coded to it's new tasks and wouldn't easily adapt to be able to interface with a new vision interface. Is their any truth to this?

        • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *

          That is true to an extent in that they would not be able to see as regular folks see... But that does not mean that no visual information could be delivered to the brain or that the brain could not learn to interpret the new data regardless of how those data might be delivered.

  • All I know of the brain could probably be written on that very same 1 cent coin. (Although I am most the way through reading a very interesting book, written by a neuroanatomist who suffered a stroke, and was able to remember how she "lost her mind" so to speak as the haemorage spread over the left hemisphere of her brain).

    I'd be intrigued why the device doesn't also incorporate some microelectronics to multiplex the signals. I see there's a wire connected to each of the 100 probes, requiring, naturally, 10

    • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *

      Multiplexing is a future step for these implants along with graded electrodes that allow you to record from multiple points along the electrode.

      As for penetration into cortex, yes. The do penetrate and that is one of the questions. How much glial reactivity is there and what does it do to the implant/brain interface.

  • This really is at the frontier of human + machine integration. Is this an analog antenna x 100? Man it would be fun to work on the signal processing aspect. I suppose a hard problem is figuring out what the type of signal recorded says about the placement of implant.

    • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *

      It is absolutely a hard problem and partially why we are looking at both recording and stimulating conditions.

      • by Degrees ( 220395 )

        It would really suck if the stimulation portion of it only managed to dilate a small vein in a kidney. ;-)

        (I'm sure the positioning of the implant was designed to maximize the likely impact of electrical stimulation. But the D'oh! possibility makes a funny.)

        • by BWJones ( 18351 ) *

          You are hitting all of the problems to be examined right on the head. Positioning, stimulation, recording... all of that has to be taken into account.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein