'60 Minutes' examines brain-computer interface

The CBS TV news magazine follows a researcher who hopes to decode the language of the brain to help humans who have suffered strokes.

CNET staff
2 min read

Update 6:42 a.m. PST: Added more video segments from the report.

In a 60 Minutes segment titled "Brain Power," the CBS TV news magazine follows Andrew Schwartz, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh who has implanted a grid of electrodes inside a monkey's brain in order to listen to the different brain cells (or neurons) in an attempt to decode the language of the brain.

By implanting a grid of electrodes inside the brain of monkey, Schwartz has found a relationship between how fast a neuron fires and the way the monkey moves its hand. Once they can understand the relationship, they can write a set of equations that will decode the monkey's intended hand movement in order to find a way to control a prosthetic device.

One of people researchers are hoping to help is Cathy Hutchinson. Hutchinson, who suffered a stroke that left her mentally sharp but paralyzed and unable to speak, is among the first humans to have her brain directly wired to a computer. Three years ago, Hutchinson volunteered to have the same kind of sensors used on the monkeys, implanted into her motor cortex. By using only her mind, Cathy was able to control the movement of a cursor on the computer screen.

A prototype of a device is currently in the works which would integrate a wireless communication system that would allow the signals from the brain to be transmitted to the outside.

Segments of the report are below, For the full 12-minute report, click here: '60 Minutes' video: Brain power.

'60 Minutes' video: BrainGate: Movement

'60 Minutes' video: Development of wireless system

'60 Minutes' video: Relationship between neurons and movement

'60 Minutes' video: Decoding the language of the brain