Reaching a better understanding of the human brain, is a major scientific challenge with the aim to achieve multi-dimensional breakthrough applications from information processing to the treatment of many brain diseases:
At a White House event, the U.S. President unveiled a bold new researchinitiative designed to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain. As part of this initiative, DARPA intends to invest roughly $50 million in 2014 with the goal of understanding the dynamic functions of the brain and demonstrating breakthrough applications based on these insights. “The President’s initiative reinforces the significance of understanding how the brain records, processes, uses, stores and retrieves vast quantities of information,” explainedDARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar. “This kind of knowledge of human brain function could inspire the design of a new generation of information processing systems; lead to insights into brain injury and recovery mechanisms; and enable new diagnostics, therapies and devices to repair traumatic injury.” DARPA plans to explore two key areas to elicit further understanding of the brain. New tools are needed to measure and analyze electrical signals and the biomolecular dynamics underpinning brain function. Researchers will also explore, abstract and model the vast spectrum of brain functions by examining its incredible complexity.
More importantly, the developments in the field of prosthetics technology, are directly related with the understanding of how the human brain operates:
The pursuit to develop a bionic arm that can connect to the human brain took a step forward with the announcement that National Institutes of Health scientists had developed a wireless brain implant that operates a prosthesis. The implant translates the electronic activity sparked by the brain and turns it into a digital signal that can move the prosthesis. The key, though, is that the implant is wireless and connects directly to the prosthesis without the need of additional wires. Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency started the Revolutionizing Prosthetics program in 2006 and have made major advances in prosthesis technology. Operating a prosthetic arm or leg naturally with a simple thought has been a goal of the program. DARPA had developed a hard wired connection that required wires that ran from the head to a computer and then more wires to the prosthesis. A wireless connection directly to a bionic arm or leg would provide a much more streamlined design.The 2-inch titanium implant communicates with the prosthesis with electromagnectic signals. It recharges itself through induction.
Additionally, related scientific fields to the human brain understanding can focus on operational neuroscience by offering tactical advantage to selected warfighters:
Last month, a proposal to establish a U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Center for Excellence in Operational Neuroscience at Yale University died a not-so-quiet death. The broad goal of “operational neuroscience” is to use research on the human brain and nervous system to protect and give tactical advantage to U.S. warfighters in the field. Crucial questions remain unanswered about the proposed center’s mission and the unusual circumstances surrounding its demise. But just as importantly, this episode brings much needed attention to the morally fraught and murky terrain where partnerships between university researchers and national security agencies lie. There are applications of operational neuroscience – such as improved prosthetic limbs for injured veterans and more effective treatments for victims of human brain injury – that are compelling in their apparent value and their promotion of human welfare. But other applications raise profound concerns, especially where the defining goals and priorities of a university and its medical researchers and scientists diverge from those of national security and intelligence operatives. Community health sciences professor Michael Siegel – a graduate of Yale’s School of Medicine – emphasized this point when he was interviewed on Democracy Now! last month. Siegel noted: “The practice of medicine was designed to improve people’s health, and the school of medicine should not be taking part in either training or research that is primarily designed to enhance military objectives.”
Finally, it is becoming clear that the human brain has many secrets yet to reveal both for general science and other technological or defense practices. We are all equipped with this complicated machine: The human brain.