Brain – Computer Interface (BCI), the Future is Here
The Corner Office
I almost never use a long quote to begin an article that I am writing, but given that I am providing that backdrop in this sentence my record remains intact. Having said that the quote below provides an ideal introduction to this month’s topic.
“In fact, the phrase (BCI) still wasn’t in use when we started to see books describing brain computer interfaces in more accurate scientific detail. For example, Michael Crichton’s book, The Terminal Man (1974), describes a man that experiences severe seizures that cause blackouts and amnesia. In the book, a doctor proposes that he be the target to receive a new brain implant technology in which 40 electrodes are placed into the brain. Then the medical staff tests each electrode by stimulating the brain with it and seeing which electrode will stop the seizure. After the initial test, a small computer is used to determine when he is having a seizure and stimulates the electrode at the appropriate time, like a brain pacemaker. The implant goes on to be focal point of the book. The man finds he can cause stimulation to elicit pleasure and goes on a sort of rampage because of it, but neuroethics is a different article for another time. What’s impressive is Chrichton’s premonition.” Nick Halper
So, what is the current thinking, pun intended, for the potential medical applications of a BCI for both diagnosis and treatment? Here’s what we know at a macro-level; our brain is an amazingly complex electrical grid. How we perceive and how we respond to those perceptions has just recently started to come to light. For clarity and by way of illustration I want to focus on one issue – is it possible to identify a very specific region of the brain that can be accessed by some form of non-destructive energy for the purpose of modifying the patient’s response to extracranial pain signals, and in doing so mitigate or eliminated the need for addictive pain medications? I believe that current science says we can and should. I posit that the energy of choice is ultrasound for several reasons not the least of which is that it is a non-ionizing energy, meaning it can be used multiple times safely. At Acertara we have just embarked on a research and development journey with the Vanderbilt University Imaging Sciences team, funded through a National Institutes of Health grant, to create an ultrasound device that could potentially move patient pain management away from reliance on addictive pharmaceuticals. The science and technology that will be uncovered in this development project will uncover other potential uses for ultrasound in the BCI field, including sonoporation and neuron rebooting. Exciting times for ultrasound and BCI-the Acertara team is excited to be part of the tip of the spear in its development.
Until next month,