KEY IDEA: The rapid development of cortical brain-machine interfaces is one of the most exciting fields of study in modern regenerative medicine. The potential therapeutic, medicinal, and industrial applications of these devices is extraordinary.
Original author and publication date: William A. Haseltine – September 8, 2023
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: What are we really connecting with a machine when we connect our brain to a machine?
From the article:
New cortical brain-machine interface technologies will soon aid those with brain injury or neurodegenerative diseases to improve basic motor function. The motor cortex is the region of the cerebral cortex that controls all voluntary movement. In patients with brain injury or neurodegenerative diseases, of which there are tens of millions in the United States alone, sometimes the motor cortex is damaged, leaving the patient with reduced or a complete lack of motor function.
In an article for Current Biology, Dr. Richard Andersen and colleagues from the California Institute of Technology describe using brain-machine interfaces to help this population. As I have discussed in previous articles, brain-machine interfaces are the communication between the brain and electronics via the brain’s electrical signals. Andersen describes recent advances in cortical prosthetics using brain-machine interfaces. Here, I will comment on Andersen’s findings and speak to their potential applications in the near future.
In healthy adults, the motor cortex will send electrical signals through the nervous system’s neural pathways to the intended muscle groups, which contract or relax when they receive the brain’s message.
For patients with damaged nervous systems, the message may still be created by a healthy motor cortex, but will not reach its intended target due to some disruption along the way. Most cortical brain-machine interfaces will feature an implanted chip in the patient’s motor cortex, which can record and translate neural activity to external devices, typically a prosthetic or accessory of some sort, which take the place of the contracting or relaxing muscle group and move the intended body part.
As the decoder technology improves in terms of accuracy and efficiency, the viability of the interface increases drastically. Not to mention, as the technology progresses, the cost of such a system will decrease, making interfaces much more affordable for the millions of people suffering from brain injury or disease.