Biology

DARPA looks to revolutionize neural interface implants

DARPA looks to revolutionize n...
The NESD program aims to kickstart development in neural interface technology
The NESD program aims to kickstart development in neural interface technology
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The NESD program aims to kickstart development in neural interface technology
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The NESD program aims to kickstart development in neural interface technology

DARPA has announced aprogram aimed at developing a cutting edge neural implant capable offorming a communication bridge between a human brain and electronic devices. It is hoped that technology developed underthe Neural Engineering System Design program will have a wide rangeof applications in research and healthcare.

While modern computingcontinues to develop at a staggering pace, we're yet to develop asystem that's truly capable of interfacing with the complexities ofthe human brain. DARPA's new program aims to improve things,dramatically enhancing the capabilities of neurotechnology.

"Today's bestbrain-computer interface systems are like two supercomputers tryingto talk to each other using an old 300-baud modem," said PhillipAlvelda, manager of the NESD program. "Imagine what will becomepossible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel betweenthe human brain and modern electronics."

Neural interfacescurrently employed in research programs compress vast amounts ofinformation through 100 channels, each of which receives sensoryinformation sent from tens of thousands of neurons. Unsurprisingly,this doesn't lead to the best results, with readings regularly comingthrough inaccurate and noisy.

DARPA envisions thenext generation of the technology to be far more precise, leading theway with an implantable neural interface system with the capacity toconnect and receive data from any one of up to a million neurons, allwhile measuring no more than one cubic centimeter in size.

The challenges faced bythe program, both in terms of research and complexity in hardwaredesign, are phenomenal. According to the agency, in order to achieve its goals, significant breakthroughs will have to be made in a widerange of scientific fields, from synthetic biology to neuroscienceand low-power electronics. NESD researchers will work to develop complex,novel techniques designed to transcode the electrochemicalsignals transmitted by neurons in the brain, and present the datawith the highest possible fidelity.

If the program doesprove successful, then there will be a wide array of potentialapplications, from opening up new avenues in neurotechnology,utilizing the sensory data collected by the implant to significantlyimprove a patient's sight or hearing, and new treatmentoptions for therapy patients.

Source: DARPA

5 comments
HensleyBeuronGarlington
Cyber soldiers like those depicted in videogames lately are not really as far fetched or as far off as many imagine. People will not only have better monitoring, but they will also be able to interface with drones, vehicles, computers, and other technology for much faster and much more seamless usage. Using electronics will be as simple as thinking.
fb36
What really needed is not an implant (which requires invasive surgery) but a helmet that can scan whole brain and read/write individual neurons by focusing radio wave pulses.
Its applications would range from helping people with disabilities to true virtual reality.
harri1234
many beneficial applications and many sinister; e.g. mandatory RFID chip with interface=humans as slave/drones
EZ
Just curious as why this tech "push" is in the military field. Shouldn't this research be done in the medical sector so as to benefit the public? It seems like whenever the military takes control of technology, it's never seen again.
Mel Tisdale
"Imagine what will become possible when we upgrade our tools to really open the channel between the human brain and modern electronics." Its scary enough without considering that DARPA is managing the project. As others have commented, it makes the nightmare of soldier drones or slaves all the more possible.
I wonder what Orwell would have made of the technology. (Perhaps he already did, it has been a long time since I read 1984.