AirTalk for September 7, 2010

Plugging in your brain

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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A young woman watches a man, wearing an EEG brain scanning apparatus on his head, play a pinball game solely through willing the paddles to react with his brain at the Berlin Brain Computer Interface research consortium stand at the CeBIT Technology Fair on March 2, 2010 in Hannover, Germany. CeBIT will be open to the public from March 2 through March 6.

It’s the stuff of science fiction…scientists take a computer plug and insert it into an opening in a patient’s head, enabling the subject to broadcast her thoughts through a computer. Now scientists at Duke and Brown University, as well as other centers, are starting to figure out how to connect computers to our minds. In one experiment, electrodes were inserted deep into the brain of a monkey, allowing the subject to control a robot arm with thoughts alone. In another lab, a paralyzed patient was able to move a cursor on a computer screen. People suffering from paralysis may be able to control their environment through thought within 5 years, the optimists say. And in the distant future, might we interface our minds directly with the Internet? Where would you think yourself?

Guests:

Miguel Nicolelis, M.D., Ph.D, Duke University Medical Center

Eberhard Fetz, Professor, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, University of Washington


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