Are Cyborgs Possible?
Part of the Neurobiology For Dummies Cheat Sheet
Cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) already exist! Any one of the more than 100,000 people worldwide who has a cochlear implant to restore hearing is essentially a cyborg, a functional combination of organic and machine parts. Your Great-Aunt Gertie suddenly seems much cooler, doesn’t she? The real question is how rapidly additional brain functions will be carried out with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and how quickly they’ll be developed.
Here are some interesting ideas about cyborgs:
The beginning of the human cyborg era began with the need to restore lost function, particularly hearing, where the BCI was relatively straightforward.
Research is underway to use a cyborg approach to repair some kinds of blindness via miniature cameras and arrays of stimulators to inject the camera signal into the nervous system.
A long-standing project is aimed at replacing some memory functions in a portion of the medial lobe of the brain called the hippocampus with silicon circuitry.
Just as the nervous system adapts to new and novel inputs, such as those that occur when learning how to ride a bicycle or drive a car, it can likely adapt to direct injection of signals into the nervous system.