MIT Technology Review has jaw dropping article about brain-computer interface research Phil Kennedy. In the face of diminishing funding and increasing regulation he “paid a surgeon in Central America $25,000 to implant electrodes into his brain in order to establish a connection between his motor cortex and a computer”.
Both ethically dubious and interesting, it discusses what led Kennedy to this rather drastic decision:
Kennedy’s scientific aim has been to build a speech decoder—software that can translate the neuronal signals produced by imagined speech into words coming out of a speech synthesizer. But this work, carried out by his small Georgia company Neural Signals, had stalled, Kennedy says. He could no longer find research subjects, had little funding, and had lost the support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
That is why in June 2014, he found himself sitting in a distant hospital contemplating the image of his own shaved scalp in a mirror. “This whole research effort of 29 years so far was going to die if I didn’t do something,” he says. “I didn’t want it to die on the vine. That is why I took the risk.”
Link to MIT Tech Review article.
4 thoughts on “Extremes of self-experimentation with brain electrodes”
The news seems vintage cyber neuroscience, the question is: when human cortical tissue inside machine hardware?
I think there are some real issues with experimental validity when one is both the experimenter and the participant. Nothing about his experiment is objective. He may very well have collected useful data, but I wonder if it’s generalizable? On a side note, I’m surprised that his insurance covered any of the second operation.
Experimental psychology got started with the work of Wilhelm Wundt, who was his own subjects in his experiments on memory. Granted, Wundt’s experiments were quite low risk.
Hats off to those who put themselves on the line instead of some poor nonhuman.