Biohacking : I Want My BCI (Brain Computer Interface)

Last summer, The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),  awarded $65 million dollars to five research organizations and one private company. The expectation is that these groups will be advancing the science of brain computing interfaces. This program will attempt to produce tools and techniques to increase data capture from the brain as well as stimulate specific areas.

DARPA  – Neural Engineering System Design (NESD):

The focus of the program is development of advanced neural interfaces that provide high signal resolution, speed, and volume data transfer between the brain and electronics, serving as a translator for the electrochemical language used by neurons in the brain and the ones and zeros that constitute the language of information technology.

Taking a closer look we can see that four of the research centers are working on the brains visual system and the remaining two will be focused on either the auditory system or data transfer.

Here is a summary of the top three projects which received the bulk of the NESD awards:

Brown Universities Nurmikko Lab was awarded up to $19 million to develop a implantable neural prosthetic made of thousands of wireless “neurograins”. This group is working on creating a “cortical intranet” with each neurgrain operating independently.


The company Paradromics picked up an $18 million dollar contract with DARPAs NESD program. The company is working to create a massively parallel interface for the human brain. This high-volume digital connection would be able to process the 24GB/s our brain is normally producing through their custom parallel interface and data compression.

Ken Shepard’s team at Columbia scored $15.8 million as part of the DARPA NESD grant. They are using an all-electrical approach with over one million electrodes on a single chip. Their device is designed to record and stimulate the sensory cortex.

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