ⓘ Brain implants, often referred to as neural implants, are technological devices that connect directly to a biological subjects brain – usually placed on the sur ..


ⓘ Brain implant

Brain implants, often referred to as neural implants, are technological devices that connect directly to a biological subjects brain – usually placed on the surface of the brain, or attached to the brains cortex. A common purpose of modern brain implants and the focus of much current research is establishing a biomedical prosthesis circumventing areas in the brain that have become dysfunctional after a stroke or other head injuries. This includes sensory substitution, e.g., in vision. Other brain implants are used in animal experiments simply to record brain activity for scientific reasons. Some brain implants involve creating interfaces between neural systems and computer chips. This work is part of a wider research field called brain-computer interfaces.

Neural implants such as deep brain stimulation and Vagus nerve stimulation are increasingly becoming routine for patients with Parkinsons disease and clinical depression, respectively.


1. Purpose

Brain implants electrically stimulate, block or record or both record and stimulate simultaneously signals from single neurons or groups of neurons biological neural networks in the brain. The blocking technique is called intra-abdominal vagal blocking. This can only be done where the functional associations of these neurons are approximately known. Because of the complexity of neural processing and the lack of access to action potential related signals using neuroimaging techniques, the application of brain implants has been seriously limited until recent advances in neurophysiology and computer processing power. Much research is also being done on the surface chemistry of neural implants in effort to design products which minimize all negative effects that an active implant can have on the brain, and that the body can have on the function of the implant. Researchers are also exploring a range of delivery systems, such as using veins, to deliver these implants without brain surgery; by leaving the skull sealed shut, patients could receive their neural implants without running as great a risk of seizures, strokes, or permanent neural impairments, all of which can be caused by open-brain surgery.


2. Research and applications

Research in sensory substitution has made significant progress since 1970. Especially in vision, due to the knowledge of the working of the visual system, eye implants often involving some brain implants or monitoring have been applied with demonstrated success. For hearing, cochlear implants are used to stimulate the auditory nerve directly. The vestibulocochlear nerve is part of the peripheral nervous system, but the interface is similar to that of true brain implants.

Multiple projects have demonstrated success at recording from the brains of animals for long periods of time. As early as 1976, researchers at the NIH led by Edward Schmidt made action potential recordings of signals from rhesus monkey motor cortexes using immovable "hatpin" electrodes, including recording from single neurons for over 30 days, and consistent recordings for greater than three years from the best electrodes.

The "hatpin" electrodes were made of pure iridium and insulated with Parylene, materials that are currently used in the Cyberkinetics implementation of the Utah array. These same electrodes, or derivations thereof using the same biocompatible electrode materials, are currently used in visual prosthetics laboratories, laboratories studying the neural basis of learning, and motor prosthetics approaches other than the Cyberkinetics probes.

Other laboratory groups produce their own implants to provide unique capabilities not available from the commercial products.

Breakthroughs include studies of the process of functional brain re-wiring throughout the learning of a sensory discrimination, control of physical devices by rat brains, monkeys over robotic arms, remote control of mechanical devices by monkeys and humans, remote control over the movements of roaches, the first reported use of the Utah Array in a human for bidirectional signalling. Currently a number of groups are conducting preliminary motor prosthetic implants in humans. These studies are presently limited to several months by the longevity of the implants. The array now forms the sensor component of the Braingate.

Much research is also being done on the surface chemistry of neural implants in effort to design products which minimize all negative effects that an active implant can have on the brain, and that the body can have on the function of the implant.

Another type of neural implant that is being experimented on is Prosthetic Neuronal Memory Silicon Chips, which imitate the signal processing done by functioning neurons that allows peoples brains to create long-term memories.

In 2016, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign announced development of tiny brain sensors for use postoperative monitoring, which melt away when they are no longer needed.

In 2016, scientists out of the University of Melbourne published proof-of-concept data related to a discovery for Stentrode, a device implanted via the jugular vein, demonstrated the potential for a neural recording device to be engineered onto a stent and implanted into a blood vessel in the brain, without the need for open brain surgery. The technology platform is being developed for patients with paralysis to facilitate control of external devices such as robotic limbs, computers and exoskeletons by translating brain activity. It may ultimately help diagnose and treat a range of brain pathologies, such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.


2.1. Research and applications Military

DARPA has announced its interest in developing "cyborg insects" to transmit data from sensors implanted into the insect during the pupal stage. The insects motion would be controlled from a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System MEMS and could conceivably survey an environment or detect explosives and gas. Similarly, DARPA is developing a neural implant to remotely control the movement of sharks. The sharks unique senses would then be exploited to provide data feedback in relation to enemy ship movement or underwater explosives.

In 2006, researchers at Cornell University invented a new surgical procedure to implant artificial structures into insects during their metamorphic development. The first insect cyborgs, moths with integrated electronics in their thorax, were demonstrated by the same researchers. The initial success of the techniques has resulted in increased research and the creation of a program called Hybrid-Insect-MEMS, HI-MEMS. Its goal, according to DARPAs Microsystems Technology Office, is to develop "tightly coupled machine-insect interfaces by placing micro-mechanical systems inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis".

The use of neural implants has recently been attempted, with success, on cockroaches. Surgically applied electrodes were put on the insect, which were remotely controlled by a human. The results, although sometimes different, basically showed that the cockroach could be controlled by the impulses it received through the electrodes. DARPA is now funding this research because of its obvious beneficial applications to the military and other areas

In 2009 at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers IEEE Micro-electronic mechanical systems MEMS conference in Italy, researchers demonstrated the first "wireless" flying-beetle cyborg. Engineers at the University of California at Berkeley pioneered the design of a "remote controlled beetle", funded by the DARPA HI-MEMS Program. This was followed later that year by the demonstration of wireless control of a "lift-assisted" moth-cyborg.

Eventually researchers plan to develop HI-MEMS for dragonflies, bees, rats and pigeons. For the HI-MEMS cybernetic bug to be considered a success, it must fly 100 metres 330 ft from a starting point, guided via computer into a controlled landing within 5 metres 16 ft of a specific end point. Once landed, the cybernetic bug must remain in place.

In 2012, DARPA provided seed funding to Dr. Thomas Oxley, a neurointerventionist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, for a technology that became known as Stentrode. Oxley’s group in Australia was the only non-US-based funded by DARPA as part of the Reliable Neural Interface Technology RE-NET program. This technology is the first to attempt to provide neural implants through a minimally invasive surgical procedure that does not require cutting into the skull. That is, an electrode array built onto a self-expanding stent, implanted into the brain via cerebral angiography. This pathway can provide safe, easy access and capture a strong signal for a number of indications beyond addressing paralysis, and is currently in clinical trials in patients with severe paralysis seeking to regain the ability to communicate.

In 2015 it was reported that scientists from the Perception and Recognition Neuro-technologies Laboratory at the Southern Federal University in Rostov-on-Don suggested using rats with microchips planted in their brains to detect explosive devices.

In 2016 it was reported that American engineers are developing a system that would transform locusts into "remote controlled explosive detectors" with electrodes in their brains beaming information about dangerous substances back to their operators.


3. Rehabilitation

Neurostimulators have been in use since 1997 to ease the symptoms of such diseases as epilepsy, Parkinsons disease, dystonia and recently depression.

Current brain implants are made from a variety of materials such as tungsten, silicon, platinum-iridium, or even stainless steel. Future brain implants may make use of more exotic materials such as nanoscale carbon fibers nanotubes, and polycarbonate urethane.

Brain implants are also being explored by DARPA as part of the Reliable Neural-Interface Technology RE-NET program launched in 2010 to directly address the need for high-performance neural interfaces to control the dexterous functions made possible by DARPA’s advanced prosthetic limbs. The goal is to provide high-bandwidth, intuitive control interface for these limbs, they will not achieve their full potential to improve quality of life for wounded troops.


4. Historical research

In 1870, Eduard Hitzig and Gustav Fritsch demonstrated that electrical stimulation of the brains of dogs could produce movements. Robert Bartholow showed the same to be true for humans in 1874. By the start of the 20th century, Fedor Krause began to systematically map human brain areas, using patients that had undergone brain surgery.

Prominent research was conducted in the 1950s. Robert G. Heath experimented with aggressive mental patients, aiming to influence his subjects moods through electrical stimulation.

Yale University physiologist Jose Delgado demonstrated limited control of animal and human subjects behaviours using electronic stimulation. He invented the stimoceiver or transdermal stimulator, a device implanted in the brain to transmit electrical impulses that modify basic behaviours such as aggression or sensations of pleasure.

Delgado was later to write a popular book on mind control, called Physical Control of the Mind, where he stated: "the feasibility of remote control of activities in several species of animals has been demonstrated The ultimate objective of this research is to provide an understanding of the mechanisms involved in the directional control of animals and to provide practical systems suitable for human application."

In the 1950s, the CIA also funded research into mind control techniques, through programs such as MKULTRA. Perhaps because he received funding for some research through the US Office of Naval Research, it has been suggested but not proven that Delgado also received backing through the CIA. He denied this claim in a 2005 article in Scientific American describing it only as a speculation by conspiracy-theorists. He stated that his research was only progressively scientifically motivated to understand how the brain works.

Recent advances in neurotechnologies and neuroimaging, along with an increased understanding of neurocircuitry, are factors contributing to the rapid rise in the use of neurostimulation therapies to treat an increasingly wide range of neurologic and psychiatric disorders. Electrical stimulation technologies are evolving after remaining fairly stagnant for the past 30 years, moving toward potential closed-loop therapeutic control systems with the ability to deliver stimulation with higher spatial resolution to provide continuous customized neuromodulation for optimal clinical outcomes.


5. Concerns and ethical considerations

Ethical questions raised include who are good candidates to receive neural implants and what are good and bad uses of neural implants. Whilst deep brain stimulation is increasingly becoming routine for patients with Parkinsons disease, there may be some behavioural side effects. Reports in the literature describe the possibility of apathy, hallucinations, compulsive gambling, hypersexuality, cognitive dysfunction, and depression. However, these may be temporary and related to correct placement and calibration of the stimulator and so are potentially reversible.

Some transhumanists, such as Raymond Kurzweil and Kevin Warwick, see brain implants as part of a next step for humans in progress and evolution, whereas others, especially bioconservatives, view them as unnatural, with humankind losing essential human qualities. It raises controversy similar to other forms of human enhancement. For instance, it is argued that implants would technically change people into cybernetic organisms cyborgs. Its also expected that all research will comply to the Declaration of Helsinki. Yet further, the usual legal duties apply such as information to the person wearing implants and that the implants are voluntary, with very few exceptions.

Other concerns involve vulnerabilities of neural implants to cybercrime or intrusive surveillance as neural implants could be hacked, misused or misdesigned.

Sadja states that "ones private thoughts are important to protect" and doesnt consider it a good idea to just charge the government or any company with protecting them. Walter Glannon, a neuroethicist of the University of Calgary notes that "there is a risk of the microchips being hacked by third parties" and that "this could interfere with the users intention to perform actions, violate privacy by extracting information from the chip".


6. In fiction and philosophy

Brain implants are now part of modern culture but there were early philosophical references of relevance as far back as Rene Descartes.

In his 1641 Meditations, Descartes argued that it would be impossible to tell if all ones apparently real experiences were in fact being produced by an evil demon intent on deception. A modern twist on Descartes argument is provided by the "brain in a vat" thought experiment, which imagines a brain, sustained apart from its body in a vat of nutrients, and hooked up to a computer which is capable of stimulating it in such a way as to produce the illusion that everything is normal.

Popular science fiction discussing brain implants and mind control became widespread in the 20th century, often with a dystopian outlook. Literature in the 1970s delved into the topic, including The Terminal Man by Michael Crichton, where a man suffering from brain damage receives an experimental surgical brain implant designed to prevent seizures, which he abuses by triggering for pleasure. Another example is Larry Nivens science fiction writing of wire-heads in his "Known Space" stories.

Fear that the technology will be misused by the government and military is an early theme. In the 1981 BBC serial The Nightmare Man the pilot of a high-tech mini submarine is linked to his craft via a brain implant but becomes a savage killer after ripping out the implant.

Perhaps the most influential novel exploring the world of brain implants was William Gibsons 1984 novel Neuromancer. This was the first novel in a genre that came to be known as "cyberpunk". It follows a computer hacker through a world where mercenaries are augmented with brain implants to enhance strength, vision, memory, etc. Gibson coins the term "matrix" and introduces the concept of "jacking in" with head electrodes or direct implants. He also explores possible entertainment applications of brain implants such as the "simstim" simulated stimulation which is a device used to record and playback experiences.

Gibsons work led to an explosion in popular culture references to brain implants. Its influences are felt, for example, in the 1989 roleplaying game Shadowrun, which borrowed his term "datajack" to describe a brain-computer interface. The implants in Gibsons novels and short stories formed the template for the 1995 film Johnny Mnemonic and later, The Matrix Trilogy.

Pulp fiction with implants or brain implants include the novel series Typers, film Spider-Man 2, the TV series Earth: Final Conflict, and numerous computer/video games.

  • Ghost in the Shell anime and manga franchise: Cyberbrain neural augmentation technology is the focus. Implants of powerful computers provide vastly increased memory capacity, total recall, as well as the ability to view his or her own memories on an external viewing device. Users can also initiate a telepathic conversation with other cyberbrain users, the downsides being cyberbrain hacking, malicious memory alteration, and the deliberate distortion of subjective reality and experience.
  • In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelles Oath of Fealty 1981 an arcology with high surveillance and feudal-like society is built by a private company due to riots around Los Angeles. Its systems are run by MILLIE, an advanced computer system, with some high-level executives being able to communicate directly with it and given omniscience of the arcologys workings via expensive implants in their brains.
  • The Gap Cycle The Gap into: In Stephen R. Donaldsons series of novels, the use and misuse of "zone implant" technology is key to several plotlines.


6.1. In fiction and philosophy Film

  • Brainstorm 1983: The military tries to take control over a new technology that can record and transfer thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
  • Hardwired 2009: A corporation attempting to bring marketing to the next level implants a chip into main characters brain.
  • RoboCop 1987 Science fiction action film. Police officer Alex Murphy is murdered and revived as a superhuman cyborg law enforcer.
  • The Manchurian Candidate 2004: For a means of mind control, the presidential hopeful Raymond Shaw unknowingly has a chip implanted in his head by Manchurian Global, a fictional geopolitical organization aimed at making parts of the government sleeper cells, or puppets for their monetary advancement.
  • Terminator Salvation 2009: A character named Marcus Wright discovers he is a Cyborg and must choose to fight for humans or an evil Artificial intelligence.
  • Johnny Mnemonic 1995: The main character acts as a "mnemonic courier" by way of a storage implant in his brain, allowing him to carry sensitive information undetected between parties.

6.2. In fiction and philosophy Television

  • The Bionic Woman 1976 to 1978 Jaime Sommers suffers an accident and is rebuilt as a cyborg.
  • Black Mirror, a British science fiction television anthology series, has several episodes in which characters have implants on their head or in their brain or eyes, providing video recording and playback, augmented reality, and communication.
  • Person of Interest, Season 4. Episode 81 or 13. Title "M.I.A" "One of many innocent people who Samaritan operatives are experimenting on with neural implants."
  • The X-Files episode:Duane Barry, relevant to the overreaching mytharc of the series.: FBI Agent Dana Scully discovers an implant set under the skin at the back of her neck which can read her every thought and change memory through electrical signals that alter the brain chemistry.
  • Earth: Final Conflict, in season 1, episode 12, named "Sandovals Run", the character named Sandoval experiences the breakdown of his brain implant.
  • Star Trek franchise: Members of the Borg collective are equipped with brain implants which connect them to the Borg collective consciousness.
  • The Happiness Cage 1972 A German scientist works on a way of quelling overly aggressive soldiers by developing implants that directly stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain. Also known as The Mind Snatchers.
  • In the Outer Limits 1995 TV series, the episode named Straight and Narrow The Outer Limits. Students are forced to have brain implants and are controlled by them.
  • Six Million Dollar Man 1974 to 1978 Steve Austin suffers an accident and is rebuilt as a cyborg.
  • Stargate SG-1 franchise: Advanced replicators, the Asuran interface with humans by inserting their hand into the brain of humans.
  • In the Outer Limits 1995 TV series, the episode named "Awakening", season three, episode 10, a neurologically impaired woman receives a brain implant to help her become more like a typical human.
  • Fringe: The Observers use a needle like, self-guided implant which allows them to read the minds of others at the expense of emotion. The implant also allows for short range teleportation and increases intelligence.
  • Blakes 7: Olag Gan, a character, has a brain implant which is supposed to prevent future aggression after being convicted of killing an officer from the oppressive Federation.
  • Earth: Final Conflict, in season 4, episode 12, named "The Summit", the character named Liam is implanted with a neural surveillance device.
  • In the Outer Limits 1995 TV series, the episode named "Living Hell", season 1 episode 9. A character named Ben Kohler receives a brain implant to save his life.
  • In the Outer Limits 1995 TV series, the episode named Judgment Day The Outer Limits, A character who is judged a criminal has a chip implanted on the medulla oblongata of the lower brainstem. The forcibly implanted chip induces overwhelming pain and disorientation by a remote control within range.
  • In the Outer Limits 1995 TV series, the episode named The Message The Outer Limits. A character named Jennifer Winter receives a brain implant to hear.
  • Dark Angel: The notorious Red Series use neuro-implants pushed into their brain stem at the base of their skull to amp them up and hyper-adrenalize them and make them almost unstoppable. Unfortunately the effects of the implant burn out their system after six months to a year and kill them.

6.3. In fiction and philosophy Video games

  • The Deus Ex video game series addresses the nature and impact of human enhancement with regard to a wide variety of prosthesis and brain implants. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, set in 2027, details the impact on society of human augmentation and the controversy it could generate. Several characters in the game have implanted neurochips to aid their professions or their whims. Examples are of a helicopter pilot with implanted chips to better pilot her aircraft and analyse flight paths, velocity and spatial awareness, a CEO getting an artificial arm to throw a baseball better, as well as a hacker with a brain-computer interface that allows direct access to computer networks and also to act as a human proxy to allow an individual in a remote location to control his actions.
  • In the video games PlanetSide and Chrome, players can use implants to improve their aim, run faster, and see better, along with other enhancements.
The game raises the question of the downsides of this kind of augmentation as those who cannot afford the enhancements or object to getting them rapidly find themselves at a serious disadvantage against people with artificial enhancement of their abilities. The spectre of being forced to have mechanical or electronic enhancements just to get a job is explored as well. The storyline addresses the effect of implant rejection by use of the fictional drug Neuropozyne which breaks down glial tissue and is also fiercely addictive, leaving people who have augmentations little choice but to continue buying the drug from a single biotech corporation who controls the price of it. Without the drug augmented people experience rejection of implants along with ensuing loss of implant functionality, crippling pain, and possible death.

  • Implant can refer to: Implant medicine or specifically: Brain implant Breast implant Buttock implant Cochlear implant Contraceptive implant Dental implant
  • of the brain and its functioning. By wirelessly monitoring the brain s electrical signals sent out by electrodes implanted in the subject s brain the subject
  • Brain Gate is a brain implant system built and previously owned by Cyberkinetics, currently under development and in clinical trials, designed to help those
  • A cortical implant is a subset of neuroprosthetics that is in direct connection with the cerebral cortex of the brain By directly interfacing with different
  • A cochlear implant CI is a surgically implanted neuroprosthetic device to provide a person with moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss a modified
  • An implant is a medical device manufactured to replace a missing biological structure, support a damaged biological structure, or enhance an existing
  • tenth cranial nerve Wirehead A wirehead is someone who has been fitted with an electronic brain implant to stimulate the pleasure centers of their brain
  • A chronic electrode implant is an electronic device implanted chronically for a long period into the brain or other electrically excitable tissue. It
  • cochlear implant In Europe, ABIs have been used in children and adults, and in patients with neurofibromatosis type II. Brain implant Cochlear implant Colletti
  • referred to as a brain pacemaker which sends electrical impulses, through implanted electrodes, to specific targets in the brain brain nuclei for the