Beyond Boundaries: connecting brain to machine

Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis wants to help paralyzed people walk again using a robotic vest that takes commands from the brain.

A Duke University neuroscientist wants to help paralyzed people walk again using a robotic vest that takes commands from the brain.

His name? Miguel Nicolelis, who writes in his new book, Beyond Boundaries, that a "paradigm shift" is underway in science, in which scientists are beginning to think that physical and mental activities aren't controlled by specialized regions of the brain, but rather groups of "multitasking neurons, distributed across multiple locations."

But theory becomes practice when Nicolelis dives into brain-machine interfaces. His team has built robotic prostheses that can be controlled via electrical impulses transmitted by neurons in the brain -- a major advancement for paralyzed people who don't have full control of their ability to interact with their environment.

Drive your car just by thinking? Chat with your mother without uttering a word? These are the far-out goals that brain-machine interfaces make a little more possible.

(Perhaps I won't have to lift a finger to write my next SmartPlanet report.)

Nicolelis appeared on Comedy Central's Daily Show this week to discuss his research and how it impacts reality. A look: the paralyzed will use thin exoskeletons to move around, Parkinson's patients will have more options, and manufacturing, communication and space exploration will never be the same.

Host Jon Stewart gets right to it:

We want to make computers that have intelligence. You're taking the creatures that already have the intelligence and connecting us to machines -- cutting out the middle man of creating a machine that would do that.

Here's the video:

Related on SmartPlanet:

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