While artificial intelligence is now at the heart of many debates, scientists and industry are trying to develop brain chips to help people suffering from degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's.
It sounds like science fiction and yet ... What if Parkinson's could stop shaking with the push of a button? If since the 1990s, the French neurosurgeon and physicist Alim-Louis Benabid has developed a therapeutic method based on the placement of an electrode in the brain of patients, scientists and industrialists are now racing the brain chip.
Two years ago, Silicon Valley giant Elon Musk, director of Telsa and SpaceX, created Neuralink, a neurotechnology company that aims to commercialize brain chips to the general public. "Over time, I think we will probably see an ever stronger link between biological and digital intelligence," he told the press.
"We know that if we install a chip in the brain and release electrical signals, we can improve Parkinson's symptoms, which has an effect on backbone pain, obesity, anorexia ..." explained him Bryan Johnson, founder of start up Kernel, also specializing in artificial intelligence, to the magazine The Verge in 2017.
Risks of remote control and monitoring
At the end of May, American researchers succeeded in developing a brain implant capable of simultaneously monitoring and modulating the brain activity of Parkinson's patients. Its electrode sends signals which are then analyzed in a computer program integrated in the device determining whether or not to stimulate the brain.
If deep brain stimulation has been used for a long time to treat Parkinson's patients. The novelty of this program is its ability to recognize a pattern of brain activity associated with dyskinesia. He then serves as a guide, adapting the stimulation to the patient's brain activity. In addition, this new system saves approximately 40% of the battery power of the device used during traditional stimulation. Finally, while the latter only addressed 5 to 10% of patients with a pure dopaminergic form, this technique could be addressed to others.
By measuring the activity of neurons and transmitting information via Bluetooth, the brain chip can also help quadriplegic patients unable to communicate with the rest of the world but whose brain is in perfect health. In the past, thanks to this tool paralyzed people have been able to control a touch pad directly by the thought in laboratory conditions.
But of course, like any connected object, the brain chip is not safe. It exposes its users to the risks of remote control, surveillance and hacking. "Most people will only accept the idea of an implant if they have a very serious medical condition that it might help." Most people who are healthy have trouble using the idea of an implant. doctor who would open their skull in two, "concluded the Canadian neuroscientist Blake Richards The Verge in the article about Kernel.