Neuroprosthetics, Brain Emulation and Mind Uploading: The ultimate VR concepts
Neuroprosthetics, brain emulation and mind uploading are together perhaps the most extreme end of the trend towards virtual reality. All three are BMI, or Brain-Machine Interface. BMI is an old field, stretching back over six decades, concerned with direct-connecting the human brain to machines, in order to improve the function of both.
BMI is currently growing with exponential speed, with real successes in linking human brains to computers, and the control of virtual, and physical prosthetic limbs via pure thought control.
Neuroprosthetics are the least advanced of the three terms, and are something with us right now. A neuroprosthetic is a replacement for any component of the central nervous system, or a device which augments the function of any component of the central nervous system. The brain is paid particular attention with most neuroprosthetics, but it is far from the only component so augmented.
Good examples of modern neuroprosthetics are the Braingate, cochlear implants, retinal implants, seizure-preventing implanted electrode arrays, even artificial brain regions such as an artificial hippocampus.
Sometimes neuroprosthetics are purely software based, such as IBM's blue brain project, or as a software upgrade to an existing piece of implanted hardware, such as the cochlear implant mark II.
As a VR interface, neuroprosthetics are in principle, without equal: They allow a person to interface directly with the VR world with their mind, freeing them from any and all physical limitations. If their physical brain is not fast enough or smart enough, in theory, other neuroprosthetics grafted on would change all that.
Brain prosthesis truly do create an ultimate VR interface.
Brain emulation will be accomplished one of two ways.
One, software projects such as IBM's blue brain project or the Allen Brain Atlas will ultimately succeed in replicating an entire human brain.
Two, if neuroprosthetics continue to grow in power and the number of functions they can augment or replace, as seems likely, they will eventually reach a point where an organic brain is not necessary, and a large collection of neuroprosthetics functions just as well.
At that point, the human brain has been emulated, and runs completely on non-original components. By that point, we should have learnt, or be learning practically all there is to know about the function of the brain.
The last stage, mind uploading, leads as logically on from brain emulation as brain emulation does from neuroprosthetics. Once it is possible to emulate a brain, it should be possible to transfer the mind within that brain from one set of hardware to another. That is, from a collection of neuroprosthetics, to a computer-based existence, taking the mind, and uploading it into the machine.
Resource List: The BrainGate: Neuralprosthetic Development since 2004,
CyberKinetics' manufacturers of the Braingate, home page
Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) Cochlear implants factsheet, 2006
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) Cochlear
Retinal Prosthesis: An Encouraging First Decade with Major Challenges Ahead.
Ophthalmology, vol. 108(1), 2001.
First device for severe epilepsy - Food and Drug Administration approves NeuroCybernetic
Prosthesis System, Nov-Dec, 1997
Neurocybernetic prosthesis - Patent 4867164
World's first brain prosthesis revealed, NewScientist.com, 12 March 2003
Blue Brain Project
Blue Brain Project - creating a simulated brain, 16/06/2005
BBP Blue Brain Project Homepage
Allen Brain Atlas
A Golden Age of Brain Exploration, 2005 Virginia Gewin
Home : Allen Brain Atlas