Researchers to Fit Computer Chips in Human Brains

John Lister's picture

A computer processor manufacturer is working on chips to implant into human brains. It could dramatically improve life for people with spinal or brain injuries, but is years from becoming a reality.

The project is a partnership between the University of Washington's Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering and ARM, a company which dominates the market for processors in mobile devices.

It will build on existing technologies which can read signals in the brain and then wirelessly transmit them to nerve stimulators, allowing people to control their hands and arms despite suffering from spinal injuries that cause total paralysis. (Source:

Brain Could 'Feel' Objects

The new project will not only work on that aspect but will also attempt to make the process work in reverse, sending signals from other parts of the body to the brain. That could allow people with spinal damage to get sensory information about objects they touch such as how hot they are or how firmly they are gripping the object. In turn that could give them greater control over holding and manipulating objects.

The researchers working on the project also believe it could help people with brain injuries such as those resulting from a stroke. The theory is that the combination of transmitting and receiving information in this way might help the brain "rewire" itself and regain functionality lost by physical damage to the brain's neurons. (Source:

Overheating a Challenge

The existing technology that allows paralyzed people to move their limbs shows that the concept is valid and works in principle. The challenge now is more about overcoming practical limitations. The most significant are the need to keep any chip as small as possible to avoid complications when installing it in the brain, and to minimize the heat generated by the chip, which could cause complications.

The researchers also need to figure out a way to keep the power use as low as possible as recharging or replacing batteries isn't exactly a practical option.

Whatever the solution is, it won't happen overnight. In recognition of the challenge, the two organizations have committed to run for the project for at least 10 years.

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a worthwhile project? Do you think the proposed technology will be in practical use by the end of the 10 years? Do you see any ethical issues arising from the idea?

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Dennis Faas's picture

This is a very interesting concept, considering the old school of thought to overcome paralysis, which was to reconnect the spinal nerves to regain the electrical signal to the brain. Implanting a CPU and rewiring the connections (or perhaps it will be done wirelessly) effectively bypasses the need for that.

As far as ethical issues are concerned: if it is a wireless system, that means hackers could potentially get in and cause havoc. Also if one can reanimate body parts in an otherwise broken body, it may not be too far fetched that something like this might be used where heads are transplanted into donor bodies to keep people (brains) alive past a person's death.

ecash's picture

There have been many tries at this..
They have used Electric impulses from nerves to send signals to an external device to Trigger motion..
Even Electrical stimulus of the locations to get nerves to grow, at least quicker.

A dedicated chip with NO programming Changes would be great. but as you have said, Any external programming ability could be hacked..ALSO you will have the same problems as Those with pace makers. Microwave your coffee, and it may NOT work properly..

I dont want/need to say this, but it is mostly fact.. There is SOMEWHAT of a problem in this nation with people being handicapped/damaged/should of passed away/Quadriplegic..|AND JOBS..
The History of jobs in this nation is TRYING to create more. In the early 1900's Getting to the age of 12, Was a challenge. Farms used kids are the main work force. And WHY you had families with 10 kids... With 2 major wars and the MEN in another country, the Women took over the jobs and kept things going..After the wars, the WAR JOBS ended.. and there was a Glut of people who needed jobs, and they CUT BACK on child labor.. Back in the late 60's there was a GLUT of jobs on the market..but the 70's hit and LOVE CANAL SHOWED US the problems of pollution.. AND TONS of manufacturing was SHIPPED OUT of the USA because of the costs of NOT polluting..LAter even Japan QUIT most of it, as they wanted to FIsh off the shore line..We lost many jobs.. They created the retirement age at 65 THEN they said NO MORE kids in the fields even Farmers kids..You had to be 16 to work..
Lots of this comes from the USA trying to CHANGE JOBS to tech market and OVER priced Materials(compared to the rest of the world, USA is 2-10 times more expensive), Wages is second IF you can get another country to pay LOWER wages, then comes MEDICAL and that 1 hospital stay could cost you your Lifes wages.
In the OLD days, if you got hurt you would get fired..Then retirement was BASED on 65, and in 10 years you were DEAD..Children have a VERY good chance of survival NOW days..

I wont go into this much more, as it gets abit weird..(as the USA has a dropping birth rate and without illegals we would have about 3/4 the population)

dan400man's picture

How convenient for a (supposedly) healthy person to suggest that handicap-challenged people should just do their duty to society, and whither away and die. And if they don't, who's going to force their hands? The government? <shiver> Are conservatives in wheelchairs sent to the gas chambers when liberals are in power? And vice versa? I personally know of two paralyzed people who have greatly enhanced their community holistically and financially, and we would be poorer for not having them.

While we're at it, why don't we just close down every prison and jail cell and, instead, execute felons from the moment they're found guilty? Think of the money we'd save!

A really slippery slope once we allow humans to decide who has sufficient value to be allowed to live. (I would suggest we are already on that slippery slope with abortion and forced euthanasia in some European countries, but just how more vertical do we want that slope to be?)

Frankly, if we'd just enforce the law of the land and kick out every *illegal alien*, most of this country's economic problems would disappear overnight. Let people immigrate *legally*, following the law that has successfully guided our immigration policy for decades.

ecash's picture

I wont debate here..this is not the site for this.
Its a WAY out thought, idea, concept..
Thats based on the past and current times.