Brain Implants Help Physically Challenged
The ever-increasing presence of computers in everyone's lives has generated an awareness of the need to address computing requirements for those who have or may develop physical limitations. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires any company with 15 or more employees to make reasonable attempts to accommodate the needs of physically challenged workers (Grube 98).
The phrase, "Monkey see, monkey do" may need revision to "Monkey think, monkey do" after analyzing the latest research. Scientists implanted small chips in rhesus monkeys' brains and then trained the animals to move a joystick with their hands and chase a red dot moving around a monitor screen. The implant, which is the size of a small pea, recorded the signals sent from the motor cortex of the brain, which controls movement, to the hands. These signals were analyzed and then translated to computer instructions that repeated the same movement.
In the next step, the joystick was disconnected. One monkey was able to repeat the cursor action merely by thinking about the joystick motion (Computers and Your Future).
The researchers are hoping their work will help paralyzed individuals use their minds to control computers and other devices within the decade. Some humans already have a similar device implanted, but the newest hardware is smaller, has thinner wires, and uses fewer neurons to function. Applications could include allowing paralyzed individuals to read e-mail messages, browse the Web, control remote robotic devices, and move artificial limbs. The researchers are
hopeful that this technology will help physically challenged individuals better interact with their environments (Austin 17-25).
Chip implants may raise ethical questions, though, such as determining who will receive thc first implants, how chips will be updated, whether insurance companies will cover the costs, the number of applications to include on each...
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