The fields of neuroscience and artificial intelligence (AI) have a long and intertwined history. This relationship is reciprocal: the study of the brain’s structure and function has inspired the complex algorithms at the heart of AI. In return, AI has helped study, diagnose, treat, and enhance the brain via braintech and neurological medicine. From brain-controlled devices to bionics and hearing aids, the alliance between artificial and organic intelligence is thrilling, and bound to get even more so in the future.


Understanding and harnessing the power of the human mind

With billions of neurons and trillions of synaptic connections, the human brain may be the most complex biological system in nature. Research on the brain sits at the forefront of scientific and technological exploration. Nations and institutions, including the United States, the European Union and Japan, are running brain research programs; China announced in 2016 the launch of its Brain Science and Brain-Inspired Intelligence Project to explore the neurological basis of human cognition and improve the treatment of brain diseases. With billions of dollars invested globally, scientific and technological breakthroughs linking artificial intelligence to neuroscience are piling up. AI’s ability to identify patterns in vast, intricate data sets allows it to emulate how the brain performs certain computations. With a new generation of AI tech, industrial demands are further driving the exploration and integration of the brain with brain-inspired intelligence technologies that are producing some exciting results in the health sector and outside of it.


Controlling devices with the brain

What we have always considered as Sci-Fi is rapidly becoming an everyday reality: AI is helping us interpret the waves produced by the brain’s electrical signals, and transmit those signals from the brain to a machine. In other words, our thoughts can directly communicate with computers. The brain-computer interface is developed and improved by many innovative companies. For example, Synchron is creating an implantable device that would help paralyzed patients achieve direct brain-control of mobility-assistive devices. Others have extended this capacity beyond the wheelchair: Neurable works on brain-computer interfaces that enable people to control software and devices using only their brain activity. One of their goals is to give patients who are unable to communicate greater control over their environment.

Artificial intelligence helps the brain move artificial limbs

Braintech and AI are also revolutionizing the world of prosthetics. From the stiff or mechanical arms and legs, the implementation of neurotech has allowed bioengineers to create bionic appendages. Their movement is controlled by motors stimulated with signals from surrounding muscles in the amputee. Much like an organic limb, the artificial limb also transmits back to the brain information on position and external stimulation via the body’s nerve fibers. Companies like Ottobock are using Machine Learning, a central component of AI, to enable the limb to “learn” and improve its performance and synchronization with the body. Other pioneers have brought brain-machine interface to the game: Icelandic company Össur is linking the limb directly to the brain, creating a mind-bionic prosthetic which is controlled by thoughts.


Hearing aid and hearing enhancement

Before even engaging with the world, brain-inspired technology is helping us experience it in the first place, and the new generation of hearing aids is in for the ride. Using AI, groundbreaking hearing devices are able to translate sound into electrical signals that the brain understands. In other words, technology like Oticon’s BrainHearing serves to complement or bypass damaged auditory mechanisms. Thanks to even bolder initiatives, healthy-hearers might begin to envy the hearing-impaired. A team of researchers at Columbia University has developed a system that employs Deep Learning to identify who you want to listen to and amplify that voice. Electrodes are placed on the auditory cortex, the section of the brain processing sounds; this algorithm picks out the brain activity triggered by the voice that the brain is trying to focus on.

Brain health

There is no need for rare impairments and futuristic fancies like controlling machines with your mind to warrant the development of braintech. Brain Health is a global and everyday concern in which the power of brain-based innovation is increasingly harnessed. Among its tools, medical imaging technology, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), is crucial for investigating the structure and activity of the human brain. Recently, China-based United Imaging has been pairing advanced imaging techniques with AI to better map both healthy and non-healthy brains. This would not only increase our understanding of the brain’s structure and function, but allow us to better study and diagnose common diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. Meanwhile, young companies are employing AI to treat these diseases. For example, Kernel is utilizing brain-machine interface to develop a way of measuring and stimulating electrical impulses of neurons in order to treat depression, Alzheimer’s and other pathologies.


The future of artificial intelligence… and of organic intelligence

As revolutionary as these developments seem, it’s safe to say this is just the beginning. Our imagination and ambition have long been withheld by limited technology and a lack of understanding of the brain. Now, these partners-in-crime might shape a future that would make Hollywood seem dull. The ability to heal vision and other senses, limbs and damaged brain tissue, or simply outsource them to AI-based devices, would downright blur the lines between man and machine. Some initiatives have precisely this goal in mind: Neuralink, the brainchild of Elon Musk, intends on building neuro-implants that would directly link the mind to computers, thus making AI an extension of the human brain. When it comes to healthcare, AI could have such a firm grasp of cognitive and neurological processes that it might even be able to identify the potential for disease and pathology long before their onset, and custom-design preventive measures, resulting in long-term health management plans.


Given human intelligence’s extraordinary complexity and capacity, it only makes sense that exploring, treating, and enhancing it would require artificial intelligence built on its very blueprints. This dialogue between brain and machine moderated by neuroscientists, bioengineers, and entrepreneurs is changing our lives in the most literal sense – altering human nature and its intimate relationship with technology.