For patients who have lost their vision due to degenerative retinal disease, the dream of seeing again might just be a reality. After a unanimous recommendation for approval by the Ophthalmic Devices Advisory Panel in September 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now officially approved Second Sight’s Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, aka “the bionic eye” .
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are developing a new early warning system for seizures that is sensitive enough to detect imminent seizures without setting off a large number of false alarms. The software may someday be embedded in a microchip that would continually check electrical activity in the brain and launch electrical stimulation whenever a seizure is beginning to form.
For more than fifty years, computers have essentially been calculators with storage systems and programmable memory. Researchers at IBM are aiming to improve up that. They have been working on a cognitive computing project called Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE). By reproducing the structure and architecture of the brain — the way various regions receive sensory input, connect to each other, and transmit motor output — the SyNAPSE project models computing systems that emulate the brain’s computing efficiency, size and power usage without being programmed.
The multi-year cognitive computing initiative to build cool, compact, cognitive computing chips that rival the functionality of the human brain while meeting extremely low power and space of the human brain combines principles from nanoscience, neuroscience and supercomputing.
The multi-dimensional research team consists of IBM researchers and collaborators from Columbia University; Cornell University; University of California, Merced; and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Now in phase 2, the project is being funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The SyNAPSE project was developed out of the Almaden Institute, an annual invitation-only forum held at IBM Research – Almaden in San Jose, California. The Almaden Institute brings together prominent, innovative thinkers from academia, government, industry, research labs and the media. The event promotes an intellectually charged, stimulating and vigorous discussion that addresses fundamental challenges at the very edge of science and technology, such as privacy, the future of work, cognitive computing, complexity, and energy storage. Partnerships born out of the Almaden Institute range from university and national laboratory collaborations to connections among IBM research labs and with industry experts, all forming a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team that focuses on unique aspects of the project.
The BrainGate Company is a privately-held firm focused on the creation of technology that will allow severely disabled individuals, including those with traumatic spinal cord injury and loss of limbs, to communicate and control common everyday functions by thought alone.
The BrainGate neural interface system consists of a sensor to monitor brain signals together with computer software and hardware, which turns brain signals into digital commands for external devices. This is a type of brain-computer interface intended to put robotics and other assistive technology under the brain’s control. The size of a baby aspirin, the sensor contains 100 hair-thin electrodes that can record the activity of small groups of brain cells. It is implanted into the motor cortex, a part of the brain that directs movement.
Neuroscientists — scientists who study the brain — have long attempted to understand the nature of memory. Engrams, or complete memories that are encoded in the brain, now appear to be stored physically as opposed to conceptually, according to research published in the journal Nature .