Neural Interfaces .

Communicating with the nervous system through implanted devices.

- Ideas in an American Scientist article, jan-feb 2010 by Warren M. Gill.

February 7th, 2010 - by Simon Laub - Email:

A neural interface is a device to exchange information with the nervous system.

Signals can be introduced by localised electric stimulation of neurons. And information can be captured by recording the electrical activity of neurons over time.

Interfacing to the central nervous system - the brain and spinal cord - is a major focus of neuroengineering.
Examples are deep brain stimulation to regulate mood disorders, epilepsy and Parkinsons symptoms. As well as the development of the ability to control devices with brain-computer interfaces.





The Utah Electrode Array [1], [2] provides a multichannel interface to the cerebral cortex. Each of the electrodes is individually addressable.


The brain can be divided into several functional areas. The base is the brain stem, center for cardiac and respiratory functions
Above the brain stem, the thalamus, hippocampus, basal ganglia deals with a range of functions,
from temperature regulation, to emotional responses and memory formation. The cerebellum, at the lower back of the skull,
is responsible for posture and motor coordination and more.
The higher brain functions are found in the cortex on the brains surface. It is subdivided into
areas like the visual cortex, motor cortex etc.

In order to control prostetic hands etc. one approach might be to interface with the spinal cord. Where the dorsal side (back) carries sensory information, and the ventral (front) carries motor information.

The SmartHand project [3] uses skin electrodes to send and receive messages. But future projects might control prosthetic hands with neuro interfaces.

Finding the right neurons to talk to, and interacting with them over a timeframe of years, not destroying neighboring tissue etc.
is however not a trivial task. No matter how commonplace it is in science fiction.


Simon Laub