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Brain implants can lead to behavioral and personality changes

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Do you want to implant a chip in your brain to control your smartphone by thinking? Maybe we should think twice. Thanks to the development of research on brain implants, this is already possible, or almost is. However, many researchers point out that these chips have significant effects on people who are implanted.

in Article from February 15thThe media from the inside He went on to meet with several researchers to explain the effects that brain transplants could have on humans. The short answer: it does exist, but it varies greatly by individual. Although the research is not easy when touching a sensitive area like the brain, interviews with many implanted people tend to show that the effects on their behavior, whether positive or negative, are very real.

If brain implants sound more like a sci-fi term to you than a technology that is already ubiquitous in our world, think again. Some brain implants have been used, for medical purposes, on humans for a long time. This is the case, for example, in the well-known cochlear implants, these devices that help people with hearing impairments to “hear” in a certain way. Similarly, medicine is now able to help people with epilepsy predict the onset of their seizures, and even translate the thoughts of paralyzed people into words, although these technologies are still in the development stage.

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Concretely, how do these implants work? These are devices that “translate” brain signals into digital signals. In our brain, neurons are connected to each other through synapses. These communicate via electrical signals called “action potentials”: this is what triggers neurotransmitters. These “chemical messengers” are responsible for passing through synapses to transmit information and trigger the desired action. Over the course of scientific research, it has been possible to identify areas of the brain associated with different functions: movement, sight, touch … Thus, brain implants with direct interface aim to capture the “intentions” of neurons, thanks to electrodes, and to transmit this signal to a chip.

Not always negative changes …

This rule opens the door to many applications. For example, it is possible to capture the intent of movement and transmit it back to a machine, to “thought control” it. To date, most of the brain implants that are implanted in humans have a medical purpose. However, some entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, say they want to develop apps aimed at the general public, in addition to medical ones. Not stingy with grandiose statements, Elon Musk for example has confirmed that his Neuralink chips will soon make it possible to “stream music directly to the brain”, or that we can have ” Fitbit in the skull However, it should be noted that the entrepreneur has announced the start of Neuralink human trials several times, never having managed to meet the deadlines.

Before considering connecting your brain to a game console, smartphone, or computer, you should consider the effects such a chip could have on our psyche, say several researchers who have looked into the matter. Anna Wexler, assistant professor of philosophy in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, spoke tofrom the inside about this subject : ” Of course it causes changes. The question is what kinds of changes do they cause, and how significant are those changes. you ask immediately.

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However, these changes are not necessarily negative. By interviewing people with Parkinson’s disease who were treated with a stimulation device placed inside the brain, Anna Wexler realized that the treatment helped them find a part of their identity: ” Many felt that the disease had, in some ways, robbed them of who they were. she explained. It really affects your identity, your sense of self, if you can’t do the things you think you can do. “.

Similarly, Iran Klein and Sarah Goering, researchers at the University of Washington, have observed positive changes in personality and self-perception in patients with brain implants. in Article from 2016They reported that study participants often felt that therapy helped them find a sense of self. A native Affected by depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

However, this phenomenon can sometimes occur in the opposite direction. Thus, Frederick Gilbert, a professor of philosophy at the University of Tasmania who specializes in applied neuroethics, has studied the effects on patients’ psyche. He posted article about it in Neuroethics. He was able to notice the alienation phenomenon developed by some patients, who no longer had the feeling of being quite themselves. ” They know they are themselves, but it’s not the same as it was before implantation L says from the inside.

Sometimes patients may also feel dependent on the technology that helps them, or feel they can no longer “function” without it. Frederick Gilbert met several study participants who became depressed after being deprived of their devices. Of course, the game could be worth it if a brain transplant helps combat the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, or if it allows a completely paralyzed person to communicate again. When it comes to controlling a smartphone by thinking, on the other hand, all these notes might be worth thinking twice…

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