WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
If you think the only way we can connect your mind to a computer is via a chip or a skull cap think again.
The mission to read the human mind using Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) and allow people to telepathically connect to computers and robots, as well as each other, is gathering pace. But so far most of these efforts have either required a BMI chip to be surgically implanted into people’s brains, like Elon Musk’s Neuralink technology, or a more traditional BMI skull cap.
Now though a team of scientists in the US have developed a new kind of nanoparticle bio-sensor that can be injected straight into your bloodstream, travel to your brain, and then monitor your neural activity and even potentially read your thoughts – like some other technologies already allow.
The cell sized nano-sensors, which are aptly named NeuroSWARM3, can also cross the blood-brain barrier to the brain – which in itself is a significant feat – where they then convert neural activity into electrical signals that can be read and interpreted by machinery – so say the team at University of California, Santa Cruz who’ll be presenting their research next week at a virtual Optical Society conference.
They also say that in time NeuroSWARM3 could help people with disabilities regain their movement, and help scientists understand human thought better than ever before. However, before they get to that point they first have to test them …
“NeuroSWARM3 can convert the signals that accompany thoughts to remotely measurable signals for high precision brain-machine interfacing,” said lead study author Ali Yanik in a press release.
“It will enable people suffering from physical disabilities to effectively interact with the external world and control wearable exoskeleton technology to overcome limitations of the body. It could also pick up early signatures of neural diseases.”
It’s also a notably different approach to those mentioned above, and during tests, the team found that their nanosensor swarm is sensitive enough to pick up on the activity of individual brain cells.
Single neuron readings aren’t new, after all Facebook also managed to read single neuron signals with their own tech, but the ability to detect them with free-floating sensors like these, and especially the ability to wirelessly broadcast their “mind reading communications” through a patient’s thick skull, is an impressive technological development.
If tests go well then the novel swarm could make real-time neuroscientific research much simpler, and neurological medicine more sophisticated.
“We are just at the beginning stages of this novel technology, but I think we have a good foundation to build on,” Yanik added. “Our next goal is to start experiments in animals.”