BrainWorks: Exploring the Brain-Computer Interface

At the end of the day, computers and brains share at least one trait. On a very basic level, both use electrical currents to send messages and commands to accomplish certain tasks. Understanding exactly how that process works within our brain and how it relates to computers may be key for researchers and doctors when it comes to helping various types of patients.

Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D., is back with another BrainWorks video to help educate children on how our brains and computers can talk to each other and why this is an important area of research. Chudler, the executive director for the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington, won a Northwest Emmy Award last year for his BrainWorks video “Exercise and the Brain,” and this new video in the series, “Brain-Computer Interface,” is just as informative and entertaining.

The video, which was produced with partner support from the Dana Foundation, follows Chudler and some young friends on another journey about the brain, interacting with some scientists, a physical rehabilitation patient, and even a cockroach (!) as they conduct experiments and receive explanations about how the brain-computer interface is being studied in labs and applied in the medical field today. The kids—and the at-home viewers—learn how a brain can control the grip of a robotic hand, how the brain can move a computer cursor using an EEG headset, and what the ethical implications are for these new types of technology. In a particular highlight, the students learn about new treatments that may be especially helpful for patients who are experiencing varying levels of paralysis, and even speak to one of the patients benefiting from such advances.

BrainWorks may be intended for a younger audience, but people of all ages can enjoy it and learn many interesting facts along the way! There’s also a handy viewer’s guide (PDF) that can be used to lead discussions about the episode.

Be sure to catch the other episodes in the series, too, focusing on exercise and the brain and sports-related concussions.

– Megan Messana


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