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Neuro-Unconference in Barcelona, Topic 4: Brain interfaces, the future is now

Ilaria Mirabile mayo 23, 2013 Curiosidades No Comments

Terminator and Robocop. The sci-fi world has played with the idea of cyborgs (a living entity with both organic and cybernetic parts) for long time.

Cyborgs aren’t just a fantasy anymore. At the II Neurounference in Barcelona (Tuesday, May 28th, 5.30 pm, at the civic centre La Sedeta (Calle Sicilia 321) you could meet a real life one.

Nuria Tort, Julia Weinert and Marcel Ruiz Mejias are three students in Mavi Sanchez-Vives’ lab. Mavi is the head of the System Neuroscience group at IDIBAPS and one of the organisers of the unconference.

Sanchez-Vives’ lab focuses on two main topics:

  •  understanding brain functions through the study of brain waves ( the electrical signals generated by the nerve cells’ interactions that you can see  in an EEG, for example)
  •  understanding how brain activity can interact and control external devices, the so-called ‘brain interfaces’.

Mavi’s invited speaker to the Unconference is Neil Harbisson.

Nail was born with ‘achromatopsia’, a genetic condition that didn’t allow him to see colours. He grew up in Mataró, unable to appreciate the colourful beauty of Catalunya’s landscapes, before moving to England to study music.

There, a conference on cybernetic changed not only his life, but the course of science: the speaker, Adam Montandon, was a Plymouth University student interested in cybernetic and sensory information. Neil explained his situation to Adam and two paired up to create the first ‘eyeborg’, a head-mounted device that transforms colours in sound waves.

After a few technical improvements, now Neil wears his eyeborg as an ‘antenna’, emerging at the top of his head and connected to a small computer chip mounted at the back of the skull.

This system allows him to ‘hear  colours’ and makes him the first recognised cyborg.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to talk with Neil about his experience at the Unconference!

Ilaria Mirabile

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