News Stories

How to Use Your Implant

Whitley has an implant from the Visitors that he's still learning how to use. But humans put implants into people as well: paralyzed people and amputees who use computers to control bionic limbs and to access the internet (they can even twitter). Now scientists have found a way to allow brain signals to control a computer without implants, by using microelectrodes that sit on top of the brain, but don't penetrate it.

Bioengineer Bradley Greger says, "The unique thing about this technology is that it provides lots of information out of the brain without having to put the electrodes into the brain. That lets neurosurgeons put this device under the skull but over brain areas where it would be risky to place penetrating electrodes: areas that control speech, memory and other cognitive functions."

Scientists are now working on a $55 million Pentagon project to develop a lifelike bionic arm that war veterans and other amputees would control with their thoughts, just like a real arm. There are other possibilities as well: for example, the new array of microelectrodes someday might be placed over the brain's speech center in patients who cannot communicate because they are paralyzed by spinal injury, stroke, Lou Gehrig's disease or other disorders, he adds. The electrodes would send speech signals to a computer that would covert the thoughts to audible words.

For people who have lost a limb or are paralyzed, "this device should allow a high level of control over a prosthetic limb or computer interface," Greger says. "It will enable amputees or people with severe paralysis to interact with their environment using a prosthetic arm or a computer interface that decodes signals from the brain."

Not only are the existing, penetrating electrode arrays undesirable for use over critical brain areas that control speech and memory, but the electrodes likely wear out faster if they are penetrating brain tissue rather than sitting atop it. Nonpenetrating electrodes may allow a longer life for devices that will help disabled people use their own thoughts to control computers, robotic limbs or other machines. Greger asks, "If you're going to have your skull opened up, would you like something put in that is going to last three years or 10 years?"

Anne Strieber had her skull opened up 4 years ago, after an aneurysm burst in her brain, and so many of you prayed for her then and have followed her adventures over the years, as she made so many amazing discoveries. If you love Anne's diaries and Whitley'sJournals (as well as our great interviews and radio shows), support this site: Subscribe today!

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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