Bioelectricity and Brain-Computer Interface: Fusion of Biology with Technology

in #science5 months ago (edited)

Author : @nuforhad (80% payout)

According to springer.link, bioelectricity is the electric potential that occurs within living organisms. Bioelectricity is produced as a result of many different biological processes. It is used by cells to govern different cellular processes such as muscle contraction, electric impulse across nerve fibers, and metabolism. [1]

Image Credit: sohu

It is said that Luigi Galvani, an Italian philosopher, physician, physicist, and biologist, first discovered bioelectricity. He was conducting experiments with static electricity while slowly skinning frogs. He found that the muscles of dead frogs twitched when struck by an electrical spark. [2]

Bioelectricity has a vast range of applications. For today's discussion, we will only discuss how bioelectricity governs the electrical processes that occur in our brains.

Whenever we are thinking, doing, or conducting any activity, it produces synchronized bioelectrical impulses through neurons. That’s how neurons communicate with each other.

Image Credit: studylib

That synchronized electrical impulse creates a pattern of electrical activity, that is what we call brainwaves. The pattern of electrical impulses does not stay at a static state. It keeps changing as our level of cognitive processing and consciousness alters continuously. There are six types of brainwaves. [3]

They are

1.  Infra slow Waves (<0.1 Hz)

Very little is known about the infra-low waves because they are harder to detect due to the long wavelength. Initially, they were thought to be just “noise.” But scientific studies have revealed that they are actually a type of brainwaves and it is believed that they play a key role in consciousness. [4]

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2.  Delta Waves (0.5-3 Hz)

Initially observed in the early 1900s after the invention of EEG (electroencephalogram), delta waves occur when we are in a resting state, such as sleeping or meditating.

3.  Theta Waves (3-8 Hz)

The frequency range of theta waves is between 3 to 8 cycles per second. Theta waves take over right before sleep and can also be observed during deep meditation. It is said that theta is the door between the conscious and the subconscious world.

4.  Alpha Waves (8-12 Hz)

In an EEG, alpha waves are seen in a relaxed awake state. In other words, we exhibit alpha waves when our brain is idling. This state of the brain can facilitate creative thoughts.

5.  Beta Waves (12-38 Hz)

Beta waves are observed when we are awake, conscious, and processing data are taken from outside. Beta waves are further divided into three classes.

6.  Gamma Waves (38-42 Hz)

Among all brainwave types, gamma has the highest frequency. Gamma waves are produced when one is highly focused and in an alert state. Just like infra-slow waves, gamma was initially thought to be “spare noise” until further research made it evident that gamma is actually the highly active state of the brain. It is speculated that gamma modulates consciousness and perception.

Image Credit: itsusync

The brainwaves can be monitored using EEG (Electroencephalogram). Small metallic electrodes are attached to one's scalp. The electrodes pick up the electrical activity of the brain cells and show them as a continuous graph on a monitor.

Image Credit: hubstatic

The captured graph can be used for various purposes, including neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a way of training our brain with the help of EEG. One of its earliest applications can be seen in the brain-computer interface (BCI). Brain-computer interfaces allow the control of external devices with the regulation of brain activity only. There are mainly two types of BCI’s,

  1. Invasive
  2. Non-invasive

Even though there are several ways of recording brain activities, including fMRI, EEG, NIR’s, most BCI technologies rely on the recordings of EEG and apply neurofeedback to train people with certain disabilities such as one or both amputated legs or hands.

Scientists were able to demonstrate that EEG based noninvasive BCI’s can allow communication in paralyzed patients. Also, they were able to restore movements in patients with spinal cord injury and chronic stroke. [5]

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Also, non-invasive BCI can be used to restore other motor functions such as walking, running, speaking. Though this is hard to achieve since the signals received in a non-invasive procedure are apparently “noisy” and requires a significant level of pattern recognition to sanitize that data and extract information. Using machine learning techniques and improved sensing technology can improve the quality of data received.

Image Credit: Researchgate

This gives us hope that someday, the world will rid of physical disabilities and open up new possibilities in neurorobotics.

Now let us take a leap forward into something unknown. Is it possible to project an image from outside in our brain wirelessly without the help of a chip? I think it is possible. Recent findings suggest that, other than using already understood methods such as axonal transport, synaptic transmission, and gap junction connections, neurons can communicate with each other via a mysterious process. Slow frequency brain waves can interact with neighboring neurons and activate them. [6] [7]

If we can somehow tap into that brainwave and find an efficient way to project low-frequency waves that can cause the sensation of seeing, we can definitely see internally projected images. Though first, we will have to find a way to efficiently tap into our visual cortex with low-frequency waves while stimulating the neighboring cells that are responsible for vision.

Since bioelectricity governs all the critical processes necessary for life, if we can find a way to control it, we can create artificial organs such as hearts that can function as normal ones. Normally, an electric impulse starts at the SA node, and it travels through the AV node causing the heart muscle to contract. The heart can beat faster or slower than normal depending on the degree of physical/mental stimulation. If we replace the entire biological pump with a mechanical one, we will have to find a way to power that device and find a way to capture the state of the body to match the required blood flow.

Using sensors can do the trick. Why does our heart pump blood faster when we are exercising? To supply more oxygen and nutrition and get carbon dioxide out. If we use sensors all over our body to monitor the oxygen and carbon dioxide level and increase or decrease the rate of blood flow accordingly, I think an artificial heart will be able to replace the human heart. Though this is more of a costly procedure and we can have a better alternative by growing human organs inside animals through chimeras.[8]

To conclude, if we can tame the unknowns of bioelectricity and brain waves and how that gives rise to consciousness, maybe we will be able to create a self-conscious entity in the future. This will change the course of humanity.

Here are two bonus facts for you:

  1. Did you know that touching a 9v battery won’t do anything to your skin, but licking it will give you a mild electric shock? Have you ever wondered why? Our skin is almost always dry and has a resistance of 100 kΩ. Touching a 9v battery means only 0.09 mA current will flow through the skin (applying the ohms law, V = IR). That’s not harmful at all, you won’t even feel a thing. On the other hand, our tongue is always wet, which makes it a better conductor of electricity. The approximate resistance of a wet tongue is around 7 kΩ. If you lick a battery with your tongue, 1.3 mA current will flow through your tongue. Moreover, our tongue has nerve endings near the surface, so licking a battery will readily excite the nerves; this gives us a zap.
  2. Did you know that women exhibit more delta wave activity than men? [9]. Females among most other mammalians show a similar tendency, even though researchers have not yet agreed on a specific reason why.

Sources:

[1] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-96538-3_5#:~:text=It%20results%20from%20the%20conversion,and%20to%20regulate%20muscular%20contraction

[2] https://g.co/kgs/TdQSZf

[3] https://brainworksneurotherapy.com/what-are-brainwaves

[4] https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(18)30192-2

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17071243/

[6] https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1113/JP276904

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19964776/

[8]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6861770/

[9] https://watermark.silverchair.com/sleep-28-12-1525.pdf

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Interesting post. It makes me think that as many SciFi authors and futurists point out, it is conceivable that in the future we will merge with non-biological machines to improve our species or simply to survive. The fact that many people today live with a pacemaker and other artificial implants is a clear indication of this. On the other hand, maybe I missed it, but remember to clarify the license/authorship of the images you used.

Yes I think it's possible and that's where we are going. Also, to clarify, I did add image credits to my original post, I think there was a mistake while posting them on hive, I will let the team know. Thank you for noticing this. And don't forget to follow @UtopiaEducators.

The images have been sourced, thank you, Love you Venezuela!