Funded by their for-profit biomedical research company, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the Silicon Valley power couple is helping to fund research that could vastly improve the lives of people suffering from neuromotor disorders - or create an army of compliant cyborgs trained to take Mark seriously.
Mark Zuckerberg and his paediatrician wife Priscilla Chan have sold close to 30 million shares of Facebook to fund an ambitious biomedical research project, called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), with a goal of curing all disease within a generation.
A less publicised component of that US$5 billion programme includes work on brain-machine interfaces, devices that essentially translate thoughts into commands. One recent project is a wireless brain implant that can record, stimulate and disrupt the movement of a monkey in real time. -Business Insider
In a new paper published in Nature on Monday, the ZCI-funded researchers outline a wireless brain device implanted in primates that can record, stimulate and modify brain activity in real time - at least in primates. The device can sense a normal movement and immediately stop it, according to researchers at the Chan Zuckerberg BIohub, a non-profit medical research group within the CZI.
If the technology translates to humans, it could be used therapeutically for those suffering from diseases like Parkinson's or epilepsy by stopping involuntary muscle movements just as they start.
"Our device is able to monitor the primate’s brain while it’s providing the therapy so you know exactly what’s happening," said study co-author Rikky Muller - a professor of computer science and engineering at UC Berkeley, and a Biohub investigator.
The applications of brain-machine interfaces are far-reaching: while some researchers focus on using them to help assist people with spinal cord injuries or other illnesses that affect movement, others aim to see them transform how everyone interacts with laptops and smartphones. Both a division at Facebook formerly called Building 8 as well as an Elon Musk-founded company called Neuralink have said they are working on the latter.
Muller said her research at the Biohub is walled off from the other work on brain-computer interfaces being done at Facebook. -Business Insider
Developed within the CZI's notoriously secretive "Building 8" program (now renamed), Mueller describes in her paper how she and a team of Berkeley researchers collaborated with medical device start-up Cortera to use a wireless implantable brain device called the "Wand" to prevent monkeys from doing a trained behavior.
Placed on the monkey's head, the palm-sized wireless Wand was able to tap into the primate's brain and "record, stimulate and modify the monkey's behavior in real time." The device did so by "sensing" when the money was about to move a joystick, at which point it immediately shoots a "targeted electric signal" to the right part of its brain. Since the machine was wireless, the monkey didn't have to be restrained during the process. Lucky monkey!
To do so, it uses 128 electrodes, or conductors, placed directly into the primate’s brain – roughly 31 times more electrodes than today’s human-grade brain-computer devices, which are limited to 4-8 electrodes.
That is a big departure from current devices, which typically require multiple pieces of bulky equipment and can only either sense movement or disrupt it at one time. Muller’s device does both at once. To do so, it uses 128 electrodes, or conductors, placed directly into the primate’s brain – roughly 31 times more electrodes than today’s human-grade brain-computer devices, which are limited to 4-8 electrodes. -Business Insider
"I believe this device opens up possibilities for new types of treatments," said Muller, whose work on the brain-machine interface is just one part of a larger set of projects under the CZ Biohub program.
Biohub co-president Joe DeRisi said the goal of the initiative is to help bolster the research being conducted by local scientists, and "push boundaries" when it comes to building important medical devices which would not otherwise exist.
"We want people to do the thing that’s crazy, the thing that other people wouldn’t try," says DeRisi.
Have they tried giving monkeys instant, remote control erections?
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