Woman plugged into computer

On 60 Minutes just now, they showed a woman who has chip implanted in her brain that picks up brain currents that can be used to allow her to move things by thought, a cursor on a screen for instance. Pretty impressive, I’m thinking. But- they hook her up to the computer with a big fat plug, plugged directly into a socket installed in her head. The Socket/plug seemed as robust as a refrigerator plug. If they can make the receiver chip a fraction the size of a penny, why does the data it transmits need to be sent through such a frighteningly sci-fi connection?

Here’s the video. You can see the cable at about 2:18. It looks like a ribbon cable, which is wide but fairly thin. Still I agree that a more streamlined model could use a thinner serial line. It’s pretty clear that this device is in its prototype stage, meaning the cheapest and likely biggest components are going to be used until it’s ready for better packaging.

And at about 4 minutes, they say the device is the invention of Dr. Jonathan R. Wolpaw of New York State’s Wadsworth Center. It’s likely that he hasn’t yet offered it up for sale to any company that would do a better job of packaging.

I’m reminded of the headgear aparatus in the movie “Brainstorm”. The prototype was a monster of a helmet with wires and locally attached batteries and disc drives, but after being repackaged, it became quite small and manageable.

The part I was talking about is at 7:47 - Its a different setup where theyve implanted the chip in her brain, and actually have a socket put in. Here you can see why I was so surprised at the size of the plug!

OK at 7:45 they get to the woman you’re talking about. That’s not a ribbon cable that we saw earlier in the video. It appears to be ordinary cat-5. They say that it’s still in clinical trials, so that’s probably as small as they’ll take it until demand increases. Still, I don’t see that link getting much smaller than a USB cable.

Once the design standards go public, I’m sure that Logitech will make a bluetooth uplink adapter for it :slight_smile:

Would it be difficult to make it be a wireless transmission?

Yeah that plug end is pretty monsterous, looks like something you’d get off the shelf at Radio Shack. Here’s a still pic for those who don’t want to watch the video.

I’m still guessing that it’s going to stay in prototype stage until there’s more of a demand (or some funding source appears) to make it more streamlined.

…I’m less concerned with the size of the cable and more with the fact that it plugs a computer into her brain. She has the socket for some proprietary cable in her skull.

Good god modern science is awesome.

I think the trick would be providing a power source for the embedded wireless transmitter/receiver.

What I don’t understand is why this has to be an invasive procedure at all. We’ve been recording evoked potentials with non-invasive electrodes attached to the skull for over half a century. What is gained by interfacing directly with nervous tissue, and how is this achieved? At the proximal end of the interface, is it in direct contact with her cerebral cortex?

I believe that surface electrodes (EEGs) will only give a global summary of multiple (lots and lots) neurons firing. I assume that they have inserted invasive electrodes that track individual neurons giving fine control. These electrodes can be inserted into part of the brain that is best suited to cursor control. The surface electrodes in my experience are attached to the scalp and move around, thus decreasing the accuracy of the control. I have seen helmet based products that allow a certain degree of computer control for video games. The big advantage of noninvasive electrodes is that you aren’t sticking FRIGGIN’ wires into your brain!!!

And yeah, it would not be difficult to create a wireless system, so long that you can solve power and bandwidth issues.

But wireless transmission will give her brain cancer.

I would think they would want a a section that has no electrical conduction in there. Shorts eventually happen.

If it’s cat-5 it isn’t proprietary at all. She could go down to any Circuit City and pick up as much as she wants, and ask casually about Sarah Connor while she tries out the various colors.

I doubt they’d use ionizing radiation for a wireless link.

I was referring to the still picture someone linked to, which doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before. But even if it is - that doesn’t reduce how amazing it is.

The question is can someone input in the computer and make her think what they want. ? Can it go both ways?

Some combination of subcutaneous battery and an induction charger that could be worn while sleeping would probably be a pretty good setup.

The sensors are in the motor cortex, controlling only movement. I also doubt that the sensors can be made to do anything besides receive data and transmit it to the computer, not the other way around. In any case, forced firing of the neurons they are attached to wouldn’t do anything because they don’t make her body move now.

Getting a socket into their heads would be the next logical step for a lot of people I know – I mean they’re already jackasses

Actually the video says they implanted electrodes into her brain. My guess is that they implanted only the electrodes, and the actual readout circuit is on the other end of the cable. The big plug might contain preamplifiers, but my guess is the thick cable contains many wires carrying analog signals.

I think that would make the most sense for an experimental setup - they’d want to change the amplifiers and readout circuits to find out what setup works best. Miniaturization is not a big priority in the initial research/development.

Or sort of the opposite device, which is something I’ve been thinking about ever since high school—a dream recorder. To my own amateur neurologist-slash-electrical engineer mind, it really doesn’t seem too farfetched. If I think about a cat, a specific set of neurons will fire. If I dream about a cat, ostensibly the same neurons will fire. Once I’ve recorded and transduced the evoked potentials associated with this event, I can program my computer to do whatever I want with them—move a mouse cursor, make an EEG stylus do the jiggly thing, or display a picture of a kitty cat.

The thread title sounds like a TV Guide synopsis for an episode of a bad sci-fi series that ends with the computer emitting smokes and sparks and screeching, “Illogical! illogical! does not compute!”

Hey, don’t blame me, blame TV Guide.