Outthinking and enhancing biological brains
Warwick, K. (2008) Outthinking and enhancing biological brains. In: International Joint Conference on Biomedical Engineering Systems and Technologies (BIOSTEC 2008), Funchal, Portugal.
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In this paper an attempt has been made to take a look at. how the use of implant and electrode technology can now be employed to create biological brains for robots, to enable human enhancement and to diminish the effects of certain neural illnesses. In all cases the end result is to increase the range of abilities of the recipients. An indication is given of a number of areas in which such technology has already had a profound effect, a key element being the need for a clear interface linking the human brain directly with a computer. An overview of some of the latest developments in the field of Brain to Computer Interfacing is also given in order to assess advantages and disadvantages. The emphasis is clearly placed on practical studies that have been and are being undertaken and reported on, as opposed to those speculated, simulated or proposed as future projects. Related areas are discussed briefly only in the context of their contribution to the studies being undertaken. The area of focus is notably the use of invasive implant technology, where a connection is made directly with the cerebral cortex and/or nervous system. Tests and experimentation which do not involve human subjects are invariably carried out a priori to indicate the eventual possibilities before human subjects are themselves involved. Some of the more pertinent animal studies from this area are discussed including our own involving neural growth. The paper goes on to describe human experimentation, in which neural implants have linked the human nervous system bi-directionally with technology and the internet. A view is taken as to the prospects for the future for this implantable computing in terms of both therapy and enhancement.