For over a thousand years, human brains have remained the same – same as that of a cave person. But the world around us has completely changed. In recent times, we have begun changing our brain with technology. I don’t mean it to metamorphose, but rather create a direct connect between the human brain and machines. Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is a two-way pathway between a brain and a computer that permits signals from the brain to direct some external activity. BCI can have different applications starting from controlling just a pointer on the computer screen to management of a prosthetic limb.
Never has the idea of computers interacting with the human mind been more central to the story than in the movie ‘The Matrix’ where people are locked into The Matrix just to live. Even better, the movie shows how people can manually hook themselves into “The Matrix” for betterment. Even the movie ‘Men in Black’ described how a computer device could alter human memory to create a shroud of make believe of an alien on earth. An advanced version of changing people’s memory through a computer – called neurostimulation – gives us the perfect anticipation of BCI.
Brain Computer Interface has become a reality. Recent developments in virtual reality games, scientists reading people’s dreams and recreating a whole new memory and the like have expanded the horizon of BCI to even treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PDSD).
US patent publication US20140228701A1, describes a Brain Computer Interface Anonymizer. This application receives a plurality of brain neural signals and generates application commands for BCI-enabled applications. In another aspect, it authenticates the identity of the person based on unique brain neural signals of every individual.
US patent publication US20170123495A1 describes a electroencephalography (EEG) Brain Computer Interface headset with multiple electrodes that are in contact with the scalp of the user. Each electrode assembly is designed to receive brain signal information. It may be a helmet type structure designed to fit various head shapes and sizes. Further, EEG accuracy is improved by integrating electromagnetic shielding into the EEG headset to reduce electromagnetic interference.
BCI for medicine
There is unprecedented development in BCI technology in recent years. The study of the application of BCI in clinical fields can be broadly divided into two categories:
- Alternative for a user’s lost function – This includes the activity of moving a cursor on a screen or moving a robotic arm. The P300 response has enabled a person who cannot move at all, but with the help of BCI can write words into the computer screen just by focusing on letters.
- Rehabilitation to restore lost function – This includes an attempted or imagined movement detected by a BCI and used to artificially move the user’s limb with a robotic aid or by functional electrical stimulation of muscles. This movement provides the user with proprioceptive and visual feedback of the limb following his or her intention, which, in turn, stimulates neural plasticity and allows the user’s own neural pathways to regain control of the limb.
The dark side of BCI
As much as this invention seems to be a blessing, it has a dark side. A human’s entire life communicating with a computer can cause mental issues. When every move, every thought and every single impulse is accessed by a computer, the situation of a human socializing can become a threat. The mere thought is daunting. It would mean anyone can hack into your brain and alter reality. Every invention depends on how one uses it: as a treatment or as a research. And that is where we stand today – food for thought.
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