Fiber to the Brain

Polymer nanowires threaded through the bloodstream may be a practical way to enter the cranium

3 min read

Today, surgical procedures for implanting electronic devices that stimulate the heart muscle to correct abnormal cardiac rhythms are considered routine. But addressing the brain in this way--and reaching areas deep within the cerebral mass without destroying neurons en route--is another matter.

While surgeons have successfully installed electrodes in the brain that have restored a semblance of sight or hearing, stopped the tremors of Parkinson's disease, and cataloged the brain's responses to environmental stimuli, they've always had to break in through the skull. That procedure damages healthy brain tissue, exposes patients to infection, and leaves wires sticking out of their heads. And over time, scar tissue forms around the electrodes, encapsulating them and isolating them from the active brain tissue.

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