The human brain is the most advanced biological processing system on the planet. It is equivalent to a one-trillion bit per second digital processor. There are an estimated 86 billion neurons in the human brain. Neurons connect to other neurons to form a network that can communicate with one another through synapses using chemical signals called neurotransmitters. There are an estimated 10,000 such connections between neurons making up a collection of around 1 quadrillion synaptic connections. This is what allows our brain to store up to 1,000 terabytes of memory. So everything we ever experience is just a result of these neurons communicating with each other through electrical signals. But what if we could alter or enhance these neuron connections in our brains? Would we develop super abilities? Perhaps even achieve immortality by downloading our brain into a computer? This may sound like science fiction, but it could become a reality sooner than we think. Elon Musk and other developers at the neural tech startup, Neuralink, believe that their brain-machine interfaces (BMI) could help make this a reality. So let’s take a look at what Elon Musk and Company plan to do with their latest brain-machine Interface technology.
Biological information processing in the brain is a complex non-linear system that is based on electrochemistry in and around the neuron. Some outside stimulus, such as a sensory cell or another neuron, changes the electrochemical properties of the area around a neuron, generating an electrical depolarization called an “action potential”. The action potential ripples from the first neuron to other neurons that it shares synaptic connections with. This chain reaction carries the information into the brain where it is sorted into the area that processes that specific type of information. Then the processed information is used for multiple purposes such as to make memories or react immediately. However, what happens when something in our brain goes wrong? Malfunctioning neural networks, imbalances in levels of functioning between areas of the brain, or loss of neurons are all causes of psychiatric and neurological disease. Treating this dysfunction, especially when severe, is a massive challenge for psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. But this is exactly where the Brain-Machine Interfaces come in.