Mind Control

The March issue of Wired magazine features an article about brain-computer interfaces, with a profile of Mark Nagle, the first patient in a controversial clinical trial that seeks to prove brain-computer interfaces can return function to people paralyzed by injury or disease. His BCI is the most sophisticated ever tested on a human being, the culmination of two decades of research in neural recording and decoding. A Foxborough, Massachusetts-based company called Cyberkinetics built the system, named BrainGate.

John Donoghue, head of neuroscience at Brown University and the founder of Cyberkinetics, eventually wants to hook BrainGate up to stimulators that can activate muscle tissue, bypassing a damaged nervous system entirely. In theory, once you can control a computer cursor, you can do anything from drawing circles to piloting a battleship. With enough computational power, “everything else is just engineering,” says Gerhard Friehs, the neurosurgeon from Brown who implanted Nagle’s device.

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