A brain-computer interface is a nice thing to dream about, but it’s not exactly around the corner. We are always getting closer, however. Newly developed carbon microthreads could serve as the long-lasting kind of brain implants you’d need to be able to mind-control computers.
The new microthread electrodes, designed at the University of Pittsburgh, are tiny, just seven micrometers thick.That’s about 100 times thinner than traditional electrodes used to study animal brains. With this small form factor, the electrodes can be covered in proteins that make the brain not reject them immediately, and then wired into the brain itself, where each electrode can monitor the firing one specific neuron.
We already have electrodes that operate on the same basic principle, but they tend to be too large for extended use. Over time as the brain begins to build scar tissue around them and they become ineffective. So far, it looks like these tiny microthreads might be able to avoid that problem, meaning they could be used by quadriplegics to mind-control bionic limbs for a lifetime or serve as some other sort of brain-computer interface indefinitely. We may not be wiring computers to brains left and right quite yet, but when were are, tiny electrodes like this will probably come in handy. [Technology Review]