From The New York Times:
About four years ago, John Donoghue’s son, Jacob, then 18, took his father aside and declared, “Dad, I now understand what you do — you’re ‘The Matrix’!” Dr. Donoghue, 61, is a professor of engineering and neuroscience at Brown University, studying how human brain signals could combine with modern electronics to help paralyzed people gain greater control over their environments. He’s designed a machine, the BrainGate, that uses thought to move objects. We spoke for two hours in his Brown University offices in Providence, R.I., and then again by telephone. An edited version of the two conversations follows:
Q. WHAT EXACTLY IS BRAINGATE?
A. It’s a way for people who’ve been paralyzed by strokes, spinal cord injuries or A.L.S. to connect their brains to the outside world. The system uses a tiny sensor that’s been implanted into the part of a person’s brain that generates movement commands. This sensor picks up brain signals, transmits them to a plug attached to the person’s scalp. The signals then go to a computer which is programmed to translate them into simple actions.
Q. WHY MOVE THE SIGNALS OUT OF THE BODY?
A. Because for many paralyzed people, there’s been a break between their brain and the rest of their nervous system. Their brains may be fully functional, but their thoughts don’t go anywhere. What BrainGate does is bypass the broken connection. Free of the body, the signal is directed to machines that will turn thoughts into action.