Computer could be insightful as we sleep

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

BCI stands for Brain Computer Interface.
There can be one-way BCIs and two-way BCIs.

Some invasive BCIs are implanted in the brain. Some non-invasive BCIs are implanted inside the skull – but not directly in the brain.

These devices have been used to produce vision in the blind, hearing in the deaf, enabled paraplegics to use robot arms and even to control a cursor.

Why, a brain computer interface even allowed a blind man to drive his car! But only supervised, around a parking lot.

Scientists around the world have been working for 30 years on these devices, using implanted BCIs, using electrode-equipped cloth caps. Research is being conducted on animals, like mice. But the real usefulness of such interfaces will be with human beings.

And the things the scientists are aiming to do are amazing.
Of course, that’s led to BCIs being starred in science fiction. Like an old 1960 sci-fi movie, featuring brain interchange, called, “The Atomic Brain.”

Now, these items are far from being a consumer product. You can’t even buy one at Radio Shack.

And the idea of using a BCI to interface with a computer has, so far, only been used to restore abilities that have been lost. If you’ve got vision and usable hands, you don’t need to rely on them to work with your computer.

Except when you’re asleep.

Here, we’re heading into sci-fi territory. Can you hear the doodododo from the Twlight Zone?

But haven’t you sometimes been asleep and remember dreaming about a time when you were using a computer?
Sleep is still pretty much of a mystery. There’s seems to be no real scientific consensus on it – although scientists have been probing sleep and learning about its different qualities.

They’ve learned about REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. They’ve learned that REM sleep is associated with dreaming.
Now, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could have a brain interface that would allow us, while we were asleep, to access a computer?

What would our dreaming brain do with the computer? What record, what history would that dreaming brain leave?
Or when we have a BCI, could the computer read our minds?

And if we were dreaming, could the computer record a picture of what we were dreaming about?

Better yet, maybe the two could work together even when we can’t get to sleep.

There’d be no need to get out of bed for a warm glass of milk, you could just lie there, half asleep, telling your computer about your thoughts. The computer could count the sheep. Or get some work done that was left undone, or you were planning to do tomorrow.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs ought to think about that. After all, both of them must care whether the first computer accessed by the dreaming mind turns out to be an Apple or a PC.

Chelle Delaney is associate publisher for the Quay County Sun. Contact her at 461-1952 or by e-mail:
chelle_delaney@link.freedom.com