An exploration of neural interfaces

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HVM has been commissioned by the Royal Society to design and deliver a public dialogue on a fascinating area of scientific development which has profound implications for the future of society: Neural Interfaces (NIs)

NIs link the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system to an external electronic device. The science has been in train since the 1960s and has led to significant developments in medical applications, for example in the treatment of hearing loss using cochlear implants and for Parkinson’s disease using deep brain stimulation and other methods for rehabilitation in paralysis such as brain to keyboard communication and brain to prosthetic limb controlled movement. Medical advances are now moving at a significant pace with important work being done in the field to develop realisable treatments for example for blindness and epilepsy.

Equally, work by industry to understand the human brain is attracting significant investment, and interest in commercial applications for example in analysing brain waves to adapt the route through computer games in response to gamer reactions. These developments could lead to myriad future applications for physical and mental health: reversing paralysis and memory loss; in education: tailoring content to attention levels, providing direct brain access to the internet; social interaction: mind to mind communication including directly sharing memories and experiences.

Such developments are accompanied by questions of ethics, governance, feasibility and cost which are among the issues that need to be addressed if systems are to be in place to approve and regulate these emerging technologies. Hence the need for greater involvement from publics to determine the future direction of this work.

During January and February HVM will be on the road talking to public participants in the dialogue programme in Sheffield, Glasgow and London as well as to members of Parkinson’s UK, the MS Society and Cochlear Implant User Groups across the UK. We are also attending Pocket Gamer Connects in January to explore the views of gamers on NIs. In designing and delivering the programme the HVM is excited to be enabling a wide range of people to get involved in this highly significant area of scientific endeavour.

For further information on the programme or to get involved please contact a member of the team.