It was about time. After glasses, contact lenses, wearables of all kinds and even tattoos, the next hurdle is this: integrate technology into our body and our brain. We talked about groups and laboratories have been working this issue, the news is now that Silicon Valley has its eye (and its brutal financing capacity and attracting talent) it and they are serious.
Kernel, for example, is a small company committed to build an implantable chip that helps people with neurological damage of any kind. At first because, in the future, they seek to increase intelligence, memory and other cognitive functions. Science fiction, startupil really hype or are closer to it than we think?
The brain cyborg
Although neural implants sound like something futuristic, actually they are not. The first cochlear implant (a small transducer that transforms acoustic signals into electrical stimuli to the auditory nerve) began in 1972 and is already helping nearly half a million people worldwide. As we can see are not newcomers ones.
In addition, in recent years, they have been tested with artificial retinas and are experimenting with implanted electrodes to facilitate the integration and use of robotic prostheses. On the other hand, Rob Rennaker of the University of Texas-Dallas, developed since 2013 a microchip that helps in rehabilitation after stroke and trauma with truly amazing results. And it is that we live a whole silent revolution.
I have a chip in the brain
But if we go to the forefront of the neural implant dentistry, we must look to Theodore Berger. Professor Berger is bio-engineer and directs the Center for Neural Engineering of the University of Southern California. The MIT Technology Review defines it as “a maverick neuroscientist” although many have dismissed as eccentric or even mad. He is the scientific project paw Kernel although his work and reputation come from afar.
In 1953, the American HM went to the hospital to be treated surgically terrible suffering epileptic episodes. In the operating room, by accident, they removed the hippocampus with the unexpected consequence that lost the ability to form new memories. Berger been studying the operation of hippocampal neurons almost since. Already in 1976, he got together with two other researchers find (and eliminate) the “point” of the brain through which we learn associatively.
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But the problem was not (and is) to destroy functions, but in creating them and empower them. Berger has spent more than two decades working on the creation of small electronic implants to help people with neurological problems. In theory, thanks to these implants that mimic the normal functioning of neurons, can recall experiences and knowledge that we had forgotten.
The interesting thing is that years ago ceased to be a theoretical question: the first significant experiments reached half of the early two thousand. Berger and his colleagues showed that they could create memories in mice and could also help a group of monkeys to retrieve long – term memories. Incredibly promising steps but not ceases to be far from reaching patients.
Here is where Bryan Johnson and 800 million dollars out of the sale of Braintree to Paypal. Johnson is determined to carry Berger’s ideas into practice and, as he explained to the Washington Post, “no hurry”. Although it cannot be delayed too.
In the background, Kernel stops not be another initiative with the technological world of Silicon Valley tries to dominate the future of biotechnology .Great actors like Y-Combinator , Andreessen Horowitz, the Founders Fund Peter Thiel or Khosla Ventures are taking positions. And large (Alphabet, IBM, Microsoft or Apple) are hogging all the talent they can.
No one is clear what will be the next big industry, but government projects such as the Human Brain Project or BRAIN initiative want this decade is the decade of the brain. Moreover, despite all the problems that may result in the arrival of the logic of Silicon Valley biotechnology, resources and talents that are put on the table they are too attractive to pass up the opportunity. There are many reasons to believe that by 2025 the cyborgs are already among us.Tags: brain, Chips