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ARM signs a deal to develop mind-reading brain chips that will help people with paralysis regain movement

ARM signs a deal to develop mind-reading brain chips that will help people with paralysis regain movement
17:34 18 May 2017
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The lines between man and machine look set to become increasingly blurred with the advent of computer chips that can be implanted directly into the brain.
 
Elon Musk recently hit the headlines with his Neuralink brain interface, which would allow users to connect directly to the internet with their minds.
 
Another project announced this week is exploring the technology's potential for allowing people who have been paralysed to move again.
 
And their device could allow them to feel feedback, like the sensation of holding a loved one's hand or a hot cup of coffee, from previously paralysed limbs or the next generation of prosthetics.
 
The chips will be developed in partnership between the University of Washington and processor manufacturer ARM, based in Cambridge.
 
The university's Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE) has signed an agreement with the firm to create the chips.
 
The processor will decode the complex signals formed within the brain and digitise them so they can be processed and acted upon.
 
The end result should allow the person with the implant to control the body’s muscle functions.
 
And the device will also be able to send information in the opposite direction, allowing the person to once again feel what they are touching.
 
It is not clear when the technology will be ready, but basic brain chip systems which allow control of previously paralysed limbs have already been created.
 
What is different about this chip is the potential its creators envisage to treat a whole host of other conditions.
 
As well as prosthetics, the chips could help treat a range of neuro-degenerative disorders, like Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s.
 
They could also help people to recover from a stroke and even paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries and other life-changing medical situations.
 
Dr Scott Ransom, the CSNE's director of industry relations and Innovation, said: 'We are very excited to be collaborating with a company like ARM.
 
'ARM's strong expertise in power-efficient microprocessors compliments the CSNE's work in computational neuroscience and brain-computer interfacing.
 
'We expect the partnership to lead to advances in not only medical technology but other applications as well, such as consumer electronics.'
 
Brain-implantable chips need to be very small and highly power-efficient.
 
ARM's Cortex-M0 processor is the company's smallest and requires the lowest levels of energy to power it.
 
It will form an integral part of the implantable chip system. 
 
The chip will take neural signals from the brain that represent movements the person wants make.
 
These signals will then be sent to a simulator implanted in the spinal cord, which will prompt the movement in the paralysed limb or prosthetic.
 
This is by no means the first project of its kind and implantable technology looks to become one of the next frontiers of electronic exploration.
 
In March it was reported that Ian Burkhart, a 25 year old man from Ohio, who lost the use of his arms and legs after hitting his head, was able to use his arms again thanks to a similar chip.



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