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An Ultrasonic Scalpel for Brain Surgery

Focused ultrasound lets surgeons treat brain diseases without opening the skull

3 min read
An Ultrasonic Scalpel for Brain Surgery
Image: Focused Ultrasound Foundation

HRMediumbraintumorstudybeforeafterFULLBefore and After: Doctors focused ultrasound inside the brain of a patient with essential tremor, creating lesions (bottom row) deep within the brain (black spots inside white mass at center).Images: Focused Ultrasound Foundation

Brain surgery is fraught with hugerisks and uncertainty. Parts of the skull (and sometimes most of it) need to be removed, a lengthy and harrowing procedure that could expose the brain to infection and almost always results in significant postoperative pain. Once the surgeon makes the first incision, the smallest error could have devastating consequences—seizure, loss of sensory or motor function, stroke, or even coma. But what if you could slice through the brain without removing any of the skull—create incisions inside the brain from the outside?

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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