Science and Technology
publicado em 15/07/2012 às 14h20:00
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USP can make a world of Avatar reality for disabled people

New chip implanted on the outside of the cerebral cortex can command exoskeleton resuming movement of disabled

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Foto montagem: Courtesy Twenty Century Fox e Agência USP
The character Jake Sully next to your Avatar. In the smaller picture the new chip developed at USP
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The character Jake Sully next to your Avatar. In the smaller picture the new chip developed at USP

In the film directed by James Cameron, a paraplegic ex-Marine participates in a program where its neural connections to connect to a Avatar causing it to resume its movements.

In the real world, Brazilian scientists estimate that it may begin to occur in 2030. The idea of ​​researchers from the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science (ICMC), University of São Paulo (USP), campus of St. Charles, is that a chip is implanted in the outer part of the cerebral cortex. When activated, this device may command the movements of a person with physical disabilities through a exoesqueleto.

Certainly this is the most promising solution to get through mechanical or robotic skeletons, paraplegics and other disabled persons to walk again. As a magnetic field outside the head kept approaching this chip, it would energize and would read and send commands from the brain out, using the same energy, explained Mario Gazziro Alexander, professor of Computer Science USP.

Currently, he said, that exists in terms of experiment in this direction is the installation of electrodes in the brain. What you do is place the electrode into the brain directly in the experiments. Is not commercially available or has been approved by ANVISA (National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance).

The chip, however, operate in a way similar to the system implanted in the Neo of Matrix, but without the use of a wire. Imagine that connection in my head that is made in the characters would be made only to get close to the head. This is our proposal: we put an interface on a chip inside the brain and 'talk' with the chip only get close to him said.

Besides the wireless chip, a condition for a paraplegic walk again, this situation will be developing exoskeletons. Need to have an exoskeleton, a skeleton (robotic) to move the leg and arm. This exoskeleton would have an antenna, hidden under the hair. The chip would be placed in a specific region of the cortex. And the person learn to use that member electronically. It would be like learning to walk again, the professor explained. Gazziro Second, the creation of exoskeleton technology is well underway.

The research developed in partnership with the University of South Florida, USA, with the participation of professor Stephen Saddow, intends to focus on the development of wireless chips and low power consumption. They are made of biocompatible material, such as carbeto de silício, which, according to the research team coordinated by Saddow, has the property needed to develop an interface brain.

A chip is specifically designed to be connected to the motor cortex. What we do here is a complement to the study by Professor Miguel Nicolelis (which plans to build a robotic exoskeleton, commanded directly by the brain for paralyzed people walk again), who has knowledge of the research done in San Carlos. What we do is to propose a solution to get the wire that currently would be used in an interface brain, the professor said.

Divided into two parts

The study is divided into two parts. The first addresses the issue of biocompatibility, which was settled by American university. The other, considered a bottleneck in the scientific world, is the reduction of energy consumption by the chip, which will be the responsibility of the researchers from USP. In partnership with the people of South Florida, we are developing new techniques to lower the consumption of the chip so that the next four or five years, we gain a little energy getting to function within the brain, the professor said.

Once developed, low-power chip will be tested in rats. Our estimate is that it [the chip implant successfully in humans] is likely to become commonplace in everyday life by 2030. The validation process for humans takes more than ten years. We plan to finish our chips between 2018 and 2020. From there, they will be ten more years of clinical studies to validate for commercial use, he said.

The study, called Implantable Neural Interface, was approved without Frontiers Science Program, the federal government, and has support from the Foundation for Research Support of São Paulo (FAPESP). We currently have $ 250 thousand, which have just been approved. And we are claiming an additional $ 2 million in the coming years. But how do we use the experimental chip factory in Florida, that $ 250,000 will now be enough to make the first. We are not lack of resources. To accomplish this goal for the first chips, this budget already covers. But we are asking for more budget to improve and build industrial manufacturing processes here, said Gazziro.

In addition to enabling the future, people with disabilities are able to walk again, the project aims to boost research and national industry. If this project is well managed, keeping the intellectual property and making the transfer to industry, will help not only people, but the medical industry in the country. The interesting thing would be to give incentive for domestic companies via incubators, fabricate these systems and can generate income for [the country], the professor said.

With information from the Agency Brazil

   Palavras-chave:   Exoskeleton    Chip    Cerebral cortex    Avatar    USP    USP Sao Carlos    Mario Alexandre Gazziro    Disabled   
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