Editor’s Note: The Obama-backed “BRAIN” project described below is being worked on in conjunction with DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA is also currently working on equipping robots with “real” brains. In the meantime, futurist-turned-Google-Director Ray Kurzweil has said that we will be uploading our entire minds to computers by 2045 and replacing our bodies with robots in 90 years.
July 19, 2013
Some might have heard about Smart Dust; nanoparticles that can be employed as sensor networks for a range of security and environmental applications. Now, however, literal Smart Dust for the brain is being proposed as the next step toward establishing a brain-computer interface.
The system is officially called “neural dust” and works to “monitor the brain from the inside.” Inventors are attempting to overcome the hurdle of how to best implant sensors that can remain over the course of one’s life. Researchers at Berkeley Engineering believe they have found a novel way to achieve this:
This paper explores the fundamental system design trade-offs and ultimate size, power, and bandwidth scaling limits of neural recording systems.
A network of tiny implantable sensors could function like an MRI inside the brain, recording data on nearby neurons and transmitting it back out. The smart dust particles would all contain an extremely small CMOS sensor capable of measuring electrical activity in nearby neurons. The researchers envision a piezoelectric material backing the CMOS capable of generating electrical signals from ultrasound waves. The process would also work in reverse, allowing the dust to beam data back via high-frequency sound waves. The neural dust would also be coated with polymer. (Source)
The investment in neuroscience has received a $100 million dollar commitment via Obama’s BRAIN project, while Europe has committed $1.3 billion to build a supercomputer replica of the brain in a similarly comprehensive and detailed fashion as the Human Genome Project mapped DNA.