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Neural Interfaces - New Age Neurotechnology

A group of neuroscientists, engineers and computer scientists based at Brown University have started the second phase of clinical trials under an "investigational device exemption" on a "neural interface" brain-plug system. They hope that the system will allow users to control machines and computers by thinking the commands. While the system is not completed, it would be used to let paralyzed or amputated patients to "telekinetically" perform functions like unlocking doors, turning on light or machines or work with computer.

The "kit" that is name Braingate, is still in prototype form and is not certifed as medically safe, is being tested on volunteers. However, it promises to turn thought into action.

The implications of this leading edge neuro research are vast.

The Brown researchers hope to find a way of using their cortical implant to send signals to other implants on undamaged nerves controlling paralysed limbs, effectively attaching jumper leads to bridge the broken nerve connections and restoring the brain's control over the relevant muscles.

Braingate was initially funded by a $4.25 million grant from the Department of Defense. The program has received an additional $8 million in funding over the last three years from the Naitonal Institutes of Health and from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

BrainGate2 is part of a larger mission to help paralysis victims regain control of their bodies. "We want to reconnect the brain back to the muscles and eventually back to the entire limb," John Donoghue, a Brown neuroscience professor and director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science says. "We are attempting to recreate parts of the nervous system that have been disconnected from the brain."

Additionally, in the case of amputees, the potential is to enable improved control of prostheic limbs and wheelchairs, as well as other household devices. When you consider the extent to which modern medicine now allows severely wounded soldiers to not only survive often catastrophic injuries, but return to their homes and families, developments such as Braingate only begin to open the possibilities of the future effect of technology on our lives.

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