What exactly is “brain hacking?” Well, it sounds nefarious, but it’s actually about connecting the brain to external devices and monitors to study activity patterns and harness the power of neural networks that comprise the mind and the body. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are used often with patients who have paralysis, have lost a limb or have neurological diseases that impair brain function. It’s the future of neuroscience research, and applications for healthcare are looking good.
When the ability of the brain to move muscles or navigate one’s environment is lost to illness or injury, BCI devices can read brain waves and translate the mental intention of a patient to move a limb or pick up an object into computer code that will drive a prosthetic limb or complete a task. Researchers who develop algorithms, code, and devices are attempting to bridge the gap between the brain and the peripheral nervous system. BCI systems can be implanted in the brain, with tiny electrodes and wires that do the work of damaged nerves and cells. While the term “hacking” normally refers to taking something out of a computer database, in brain research hacking is about giving something back.