How brain-machine connections can help paraplegics move again

The brain is seen as the seat of the human self in many cultures. But researches are increasingly looking at connecting our brains to machines, and even to each other — raising questions about what happens to our individual identity when it's directly connected to others. 

New research shows that brain-machine interfaces can help paralyzed patients rewire their brains, and learn to move again.

Neuroethicist Karen Rommelfanger understands why many people find the promise of connecting brains so compelling. Dr. Rommelfanger is a faculty member in the NS program.

"The idea of being able to touch somebody really far away — touch someone's thoughts from far away — is an exciting appeal."

But she says that both in science and on the consumer side, there are questions that need to be asked along the way.

Rommelfanger is part of the neuroethics workgroup of the U.S. government's Brain Initiative, looking at the ethics of brain research. She worries that brain connection could lead to an overdependence of technology, and raises fundamental questions about our sense of self.

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