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July 31, 2011

Look Ma, No Hands

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to actually control something, using just the power of thought? Of course you have! The best thing is, scientists are putting this awesome Sci-Fi superpower to the test. With the help of neroscientist Christof Koch of Caltech and neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried of UCLA one can start controlling a computer based on harnessing the power of a certain neuron in the human brain.

This neuron functions similarly to how a computer functions allowing it to "recognize people, landmarks, and objects." These scientists have been working with persons diagnosed with epilepsy and with the help of Moran Cerf (a postdoctoral fellow) they have found that individuals have been able to "consciously control the firing of these single neurons...and in doing so manipulate the behavior of an image on a computer screen."

It is already amazing what the brain can do, but the truly remarkable thing is that there is so much more to it that we don't know. This is truly the beginning of the brain era where we will start to unravel and discover more than we ever have about the human race. Unlocking the secrets of our full potential is on the horizon as we dig deeper for an understanding of how our brain functions.

These scientists were able to find one neuron amongst billions, and this neuron can be controlled by the patient and turned into a controller for a computer. In around 70 percent of the trials the subjects were successful in separating two images on a screen by focusing on the target image and fading out the "distractor" image. This breakthrough is so fascinating it is almost to good to be true, but the study stands and the patients felt the task to be "incredibly fun as they started to feel that they control things in the environment purely with their thought."

So surely these types of studies should be continued in a lab setting so that it can be tweaked and perfected. The discovery of this neuron can be used for a greater purpose than the sole entertainment of bringing out our childhood fantasies of controlling things with our minds; but how could it not be one of the coolest things ever? Yes, it can be used to play a new type of videogame, but it can also be expanded and used as a built-in controller for any electronic devise that can be synced to your brain. One may no longer need the use of a keyboard as they write an article, just by thinking. They are not at all shocked to see their thoughts written out on the screen in front of them with no more of an effort than to will it.

Though this is just the baby stage of what can one day be a great and dependent part of everyday life the questions of the consequences are always lingering. What the brain fully has to offer once mixed with technology is still unknown. The fact of the matter is, are we ready for this great responsibility as a race?
Posted by      David M. at 9:10 PM MDT


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