The elderly are very much the centre of attention these days. Whether it’s the higher education minister in the UK entreating people in their 70s to return to University to retain; or a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, which concluded that 72 is the new 30. The study proved that primitive hunter gatherers, at age 30, had the same odds of dying as a modern Swedish or Japanese man would face at 72. It is becoming clear that we are no longer clear where the possible outer boundaries of human life stand. The thought of being alive beyond 90 years when the body is physical giving incapable of delivering the results demanded by the brain is not appealing.
But as the gloom descends there may be help at hand. President Barack Obama is expected to announce the Brain Activity Mapping (BAM) project next month, splashing out $3bn on neuroscience over the next 10 years. This research if successful, it could radically improve our knowledge and treatment of neurological problems - conditions ranging from autism to Parkinson’s disease. In parallel the EU chose the Human Brain Project as its €1bn flagship research programme. As well as helping treat these common brain disorders the research also offers the prospect of solving how the brain is hooked up to the body to so we might develop treatments for disorders like paralysis.
Blue Brain director Henry Markram, who will run the EU Human Brain Project, says the research will help treat common brain disorders, and the research also offers the prospect of solving how the brain is hooked up to the body to so we might develop treatments for paralysis. There will be benefits for computer technology as well as neuroscience, by developing “neuromorphic” machines based on the circuitry of the brain patients in trials are already able to control computer cursors and robotic arms by transmitting thoughts of movement through implants of just 100 electrodes. He added that the project teams current work is, “the first comprehensive attempt to reverse-engineer the mammalian brain”.
It’s just a question of joining the dots and we arrive at a place and time where my perfect brain could be supported by a man made exoskeleton for an indefinite period of time. The question is what sort of exoskeleton would I want?
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