Dr. Phil Kennedy, the ‘father of cyborgs.' Dr. Phil Kennedy is a neurosurgeon who has contributed to mind-controlled technology. Now, he is using his own brain to understand how speech is connected to neural signals in the brain to help ALS sufferers. (via Neuralsignals & MIT)
Think you could do this?
Dr. Phil Kennedy, a neuroscientist dubbed the ‘father of cyborgs,’ made a self-sacrifice in the name of science and recently shared his findings and experience at the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago. The scientific community is still reeling from his elective surgery, but hopes that it provides precious data that can help Kennedy create a mind-controlled speech software.
Kennedy is sometimes considered the ‘father of cyborgs’ because he invented surgeries which allow electrodes to ‘interface’ with the human brain and computers. These surgeries are still used to allow researchers to test mind-controlled technology which intends to help paralysis and pelagic sufferers. The first neuron surgeries were very invasive. The newer form of the surgery allows the neurons to grow into a neural implant (created by Kennedy), which makes the surgery safer and more effective as an interface between the human brain and computers.
Essentially, Kennedy’s research has helped turn neuro-signals into computer commands which allow patients to control robotic prosthetics or move a cursor across a computer screen. There is no doubt that Kennedy’s research has been instrumental in establishing current research, however the FDA recently withdrew permission for Kennedy to install neural implants in test subjects and his pool of test subjects dwindled to nothing.
Dr. kennedy during the surgery... he actually did it! (via MIT)
Kennedy’s current research is attempting to help patients with ALS, who are unable to talk or move, use a computer to speak using their mind. As noble as the research is, there are few subjects who volunteer – and those who have were already at the end of their lives. The lack of test subjects and FDA disapproval moved Kennedy to do the unthinkable. He volunteered himself as a test subject and has fronted the cost of his research himself.
In June 2014, Kennedy elected to have intensive surgery in Belize to install neurons in his own brain to receive speech data that can help him understand how to turn neural speech patterns into computer commands. The surgery required the full removal of the top of his skull, which always involves high risk. Brain swelling after the first 12-hour session of the surgery caused him to lose the capability to speak temporarily.
On the second day, he underwent a 10-hour procedure where the electronic electrodes were implanted to enable the collection of neural signals.
Kennedy collected 4-weeks’ worth of data which he hopes will enable him to further understand the signals connected to speech. He already seems hopeful about his data as he has found that the neural signals of him speaking a phenome and thinking it aloud are very similar; this bodes well for a mind-controlled speech computer. This research could also prove very interesting for other future projects.
In January 2015, Kennedy had to have the neural implants removed because his skull didn’t close entirely – posing obvious problems. The surgeries have proven to be extremely costly, but Kennedy is happy to be alive and have 4-weeks’ worth of viable data for future projects. While self-sacrifice in the name of science is considered unethical, but it only seems to pose an issue if the experiment goes poorly. Hence, time has yet to see whether this sacrifice is considered a triumph, but his fellow researchers are hopefully and curious to see what is discovered.
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