How the Human Intranet can bring an end to Parkinson's and other neural diseases

27/10/2017

When computer chips become so small they're able to mingle with neurons, our brains become a part of the grid. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities, both good and bad. 

What is the definition of Human Intranet? Jan Rabaey of the EECS Department at the University of California mentions it as "An open scalable platform that seamlessly integrates an ever-increasing number of sensor, actuation, computation, storage, communication and energy nodes located on, in, or around the human body acting in symbiosis with the functions provided by the body itself. This may fundamentally alter the ways humans operate, and interact with the physical world around them. It all starts with concepts that find their roots in the Internet of Things (IoT) and swarm technologies."

That's quite a way to put it down. Although Rabaey also names it the homo technologicus, since humanity and technology will get more and more entwined with one another. At the University of California, Rabaey is leading a research center for wireless technology and the capabilities of creating smaller and smaller computerchips.

Reinventing the wheel

Just like the discovery of fire or the invention of the wheel, now comes the era of the human intranet: a network of sensors and technology inside of our bodies which gives us the capability of expanding our knowledge and abilities. The world is getting smarter and us, as a species, have to follow.

15 years ago, the creation of a wireless sensor the size of a biological cell was still a dream. Nowaways, the possibility of such a feat lies within arm's reach. This allows researchers such as Rabaey to think about applications where these sensors will understand what neurons are transmitting and can even alter their behaviour. Since our brains are made up of neurons, interaction between our brains and technology becomes reality; resulting in brain-machine interfaces. 

We're not turning into cyborgs just yet

But what is the carry-over to our everyday lives? Naturally, researchers look for ways to implement this into our healthcare. One of the first findings is that such brain-stimulating interfaces could well be a cure for neural diseases such as Parkinson's. Not a bad turnover for turning into a cyborg, right? 

Another example is already being applied today. Many people already have a titanium knee replacement which basically is the use of technology to tackle certain medical issues. A next step could be implementing technology in patients with a fractured spinal chord. Brain activity connected with a prosthesis could be stimulated through this technology, allowing the patient to regain his or her range of motion. 

Visionary Seminar featuring Jan Rabaey

On Monday November 27, Leuven MindGate and imec organise a Visionary Seminar on the matter of Human Intranet and will also zoom in more closely on features such as the privacy aspect. Click the link below for more information and registrations.