Neural implants and Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) have revolutionized our understanding of the brain and its interaction with technology. By translating neural activity into computational commands, they enable communication and control for individuals with motor disabilities, and open up new avenues for cognitive enhancement and neuroprosthetic applications.
Neural implants and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) leverage the brain’s electrical activity to enable communication with external devices. By decoding neural patterns through implanted electrodes or non-invasive scalp placement, precise control of computer cursors and robotic limbs becomes possible. This chapter explores the fundamental principles behind these technologies, highlighting their reliance on recording and interpreting neuronal activity. With advanced algorithms, neural implants and BCIs offer vast potential for restoring function, treating disorders, and enhancing cognition.
Significant progress has been made in neural implants and BCIs since their initial development in the 1970s. Innovations in electrode design and manufacturing have improved the accuracy and longevity of these devices. Thin and flexible electrode arrays have minimized tissue damage and inflammation, while machine learning and signal processing algorithms have enhanced the speed and precision of BCI-controlled devices. Groundbreaking studies have demonstrated remarkable achievements, such as a paralyzed individual typing at a speed of 90 characters per minute, surpassing previous records.
Beyond their therapeutic applications, neural implants and BCIs offer profound insights into brain function. By recording neural activity during tasks, scientists can unravel the neural correlates of cognition, perception, and emotion. These technologies have shed light on the neural basis of decision-making and even revealed activity patterns that predict choices before conscious awareness. Furthermore, there is a speculative and controversial realm of human enhancement, where neural implants and BCIs could potentially augment cognitive abilities, memory, attention, and enable unprecedented experiences like telepathy or direct interaction with AI. Their transformative potential is both exciting and ethically challenging.