Secrets of neurotechnology – can the brain be used as a weapon?

(ORDO NEWS) — Even though the first representatives of the species Homo Sapiens appeared on Earth about 300,000 – 200,000 years ago, we have managed to build a technologically advanced civilization. Today, we launch rockets and robotic vehicles into space that plow the surface of the worlds closest to us. But all these achievements became possible thanks to one organ hidden from our eyes – the human brain. It’s no secret that even neuroscientists, as Professor Robert Sapolsky writes about this in his book Who Are We? Genes, our bodies, society ”do not fully understand how the brain works. But we managed to achieve some success – remember the last presentation of neuralink Elon Musk? A device built directly into the pig’s brain works great. Moreover, in recent years, brain implants have appeared, allowing you to translate brain waves into text. But if we are capable of inventing such high technology, is there a chance that someone will use it as a mind-control tool or even a weapon?

What is Brain Link?

What do you think the connection of one brain to another might look like? Not non-existent telepathy, but communication through a built-in brain implant? Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis answered this question in a study published in the Duke University Medical Center earlier this year.

During the study, scientists in the laboratory placed two rhesus poppies in separate rooms, where the animals looked at a computer screen, where there was an image of a virtual hand in two-dimensional space. The monkeys’ task was to guide their hand from the center of the screen towards the target, and when they did so successfully, the researchers rewarded them with sips of juice. At the same time, the monkeys were not equipped with joysticks or any other devices that could control their hand.

However, there is one interesting detail in this study – before the experiment, scientists inserted implants into the monkeys’ brains – in those parts of their brain that affect movement. Thanks to this, the electrodes were able to capture and transmit neural activity through a wired connection to computers. But even more interesting was the ability of animals to jointly control a digital limb.

Thus, in one experiment, one monkey could control only horizontal actions, while the other controlled only vertical movements. Nevertheless, the subjects gradually learned with the help of associations that a certain way of thinking leads to the movement of the limb. After realizing this pattern of causation, they continued to behave in essence and think together, so that the hand moved towards the goal and brought them juice.

The study’s lead author, Miguel Nicolelis, calls this amazing collaboration “brain” or “brain network.” Ultimately, the neuroscientist hopes that the collaboration of one brain with another can be used to accelerate rehabilitation in people with neurological damage – more precisely, that the brain of a healthy person can interact with the brain of a patient with a stroke, which will then learn to speak or move the paralyzed person more quickly. part of the body.

This work is another success in a long line of recent advances in neurotechnology: interfaces applied to neurons, algorithms used to decode or stimulate these neurons, and brain maps that provide a clearer picture of the complex circuits that govern cognition, emotion, and action. Just imagine how useful such developments can be: it will be possible to create more advanced limb prostheses that can convey sensations to those who wear them; it will be possible to better understand some diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, and even treat depression and many other mental disorders.

Possible future

Imagine computer systems attached to the brain tissue that allows a paralyzed patient to use the power of thought to control robotic machines. Agree, they can also be used to control bionic soldiers and manned aircraft. And devices that support the brains of patients, such as those with Alzheimer’s, can be used to instill new memories or delete existing ones – both among allies and enemies.

An article in Foreign Policy magazine quotes bioethicist Jonathan Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, about Nicholasis’s idea:

Imagine that we can take intellectual knowledge from, say, Henry Kissinger, who knows all about the history of diplomacy and politics, and then get all the knowledge from a person who has studied military strategy, from an engineer from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), etc. All this can be combined. Such a brain network will allow important military decisions to be made based on practical omniscience, and this will have serious political and social consequences.

However, today such ideas remain in the field of science fiction, although their appearance may be a matter of time. At least some experts think so. The fact is that neurotechnologies are developing rapidly, which means that eventually, breakthrough opportunities will inevitably lead to their industrial implementation. For example, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which conducts important research and development work for the Department of Defense, is investing a lot of money in brain technology.

The question is not whether or not non-state agents will be able to use certain neurobiological methods and technologies; the question is when they will do it, and what methods and technologies they will use.

James Girod is a neuroethics specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center.

People have long been captivated and horrified by the thought of mind control. It is probably too early to fear the worst – for example, that the state will be able to penetrate the human brain using hacker methods. However, dual-use neurotechnologies have great potential, and their time is not far off. Some ethicists are concerned that in the absence of legal mechanisms to regulate such technologies, laboratory research can easily move into the real world.

Mind Field

The quest to better understand the brain, arguably the least understood human organ, has led to a surge in innovation in neurotechnology over the past 10 years. So, in 2005, a group of scientists announced that they were able to read human thoughts using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures the blood flow caused by the activity of the brain. During the experiment, the subject lay motionless in a growth scanner and looked at a small screen onto which simple visual arousal signals were projected – a random sequence of lines in different directions, partly vertical, partly horizontal, and partly diagonal. The direction of each line produced slightly different bursts of brain function. Just by looking at this activity, scientists could determine.

It took only six years to significantly develop this technology to decipher the brain – with the help of Silicon Valley. The University of California at Berkeley conducted a series of experiments. For example, in a 2011 study, participants were asked to watch movie previews on a functional magnetic resonance imager, and scientists used brain response data to create decryption algorithms for each subject. They then recorded the activity of nerve cells as the participants watched various scenes from new films, such as a passage in which Steve Martin walks around the room. Based on the algorithms of each subject, the researchers later managed to recreate this very scene, using exclusive data from brain activity. These supernatural results are not very visually realistic;

Based on the findings, Thomas Naselaris, a neuroscientist at the University of South Carolina, said, “The ability to do things like mind reading will come along sooner or later. This will become possible during our lifetime.”

This work is being accelerated by the rapidly advancing brain-machine interface technology – neural implants and computers that read brain activity and translate it into real action, or vice versa. They stimulate neurons to create performances or physical movements.

Just eight years later, the brain-machine interface has become much more sophisticated and sophisticated, as demonstrated by the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Juliano Pinto, 29, who was completely paralyzed in his lower body, donned a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton developed at Duke University to hit the ball at the opening ceremony in São Paulo. The helmet on Pinto’s head received signals from his brain, indicating the man’s intention to hit the ball. A computer attached to Pinto’s back, receiving these signals, launched a robotic suit to execute the command of the brain. Agree, to some extent, the future is already here.

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