The real-life equivalent of a cyborg? 'Brain-Computer Interface' Implant Wearer for More Than 7 Years

By TechThop Team

Posted on: 18 Aug, 2022

The implant is the longest-lasting in history. With a surgically implanted electrode array the size of a pencil eraser, Cooper can control external equipment, such as computers, video games, and robotic arms.

A 2004 automobile accident paralyzed Copeland from the chest down, rendering him immobile and limbless. In 2014, he took part in a study at the University of Pittsburgh to see if a brain-computer interface, or BCI, could help him regain some of his lost abilities.

He decided to join even though it would require brain surgery, and no one knew how long the gadget would work. People with severe disabilities may soon be able to buy this technology, which has been in development since the 1960s but is still at the experimental stage.

As of now, Copeland has four active implants after receiving his initial array in 2015, and he will receive three more as part of the study. As a result of their hard silicon construction, Utah arrays resemble hairbrush bristles. 

The array consists of 100 millimeter-long needles coated with conductive metal and arranged in a square grid. Since these arrays generate electrical fields that interact with one another, researchers can observe and record activity from hundreds of neighboring neurons. 

As a result, researchers need to convert these neural impulses into digital commands that can be entered into a computer or a prosthetic limb by the wearer so that they may control the device. 

As part of Copeland's BrainGate system, he has an implanted array, a cable that connects an external device magnifying his neurological signals to an external pedestal on his skull, and a computer that interprets the signals.

As a professor of bioengineering at the University of Utah in the 1980s, Richard Normann first came up with the Utah array while trying to restore vision. Currently, it is the industry standard for research on brain-computer interfaces. 

The first person paralyzed by paralysis to receive a Utah array implant was Matt Nagle, in 2004. He used a prosthetic hand, controlled a TV, checked his email, and moved his computer cursor. 

He eventually had Nagle's implant withdrawn after a year, according to the study's guidelines. BCIs are currently being worn by more than 30 study participants worldwide. 

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