Brain Computer Interfaces

The study of Neuro Rights Law for the purpose of developing Jurisprudence requires an understanding the neuro science as well as the technology that interacts with the neuro systems of humans.

So far we have tried to establish the relevance and scope of Neuro rights laws comparing it with the Privacy Laws. We have discussed how the definition of “Harm” under DPA 2021 can be extended to the impact of neuro modulation techniques and how the flexibility in DPA 2021 in defining “Critical Personal Information” can be extended to the “Neuro Data” to cover the “Neuro Rights” which are being discussed world over as part of the Human Rights.

In our journey to the center of the World of Neuro rights, today we shall explore the technologies related to the domain.

The Human nervous system consists of the Central Nervous system (which includes the Brain and the Spinal Cord), the nerve system that enables two way movement of signals from different parts of the human body to the brain and from the brain to the different parts of the body. The signal transmissions occur when the electrical potential in a neuron cell body (Soma) exceeds a threshold level (action potential) which emits a neuro signal that travels through the wire like part of the cell called the Axon reaching out to the different parts of the body. The end parts of the neuron cells called the Dendrites transfer the signals to the dendrites of the neighboring neurons through the area called “Synapses”. While the signal travels through the Axons, the signals are insulated by what is known as “Myelin sheaths”.

From the requirements of technology, what is important is that generation of neuro signals is created by an accumulation of electrical voltage in the cell and when it crosses the threshold of the action potential the signal is fired from the cell body through the axon to the axon terminals.

The objective of technology is to capture these signals and probably manipulate them in transmission. The technological devices working in this area may be called “Brain Computer Interface” or “Brain Machine Interface” (BCI or BMI). It can also be referred to as Human-Computer Interface or HCI

In the simple “Brain Mapping” technology, the objective  of a BCI is just to record the activity of the brain under different contexts of external stimuli. In a more sophisticated exercise, the technology can try to understand the source and destination of the signal within the human body and the nature of the actions intended which can be transmitted to the specific areas of the body to induce the actions.

The technology itself can be divided into “Non Invasive”, “Invasive” and “Semi Invasive” types.

The world of technology is also trying to create a “Virtual Brain” or the “Blue Brain” (An IBM Project) as a sequel to the Artificial Intelligence. The Blue brain can be a “Chip” that can be installed in the human brain in an invasive technique involving surgery and implantation of the chip below the skull. The “Blue Brain” can be supported by “Nano bots” which travel through our blood circulatory system carrying the information from different parts of the body into the Chip.

The Non Invasive technologies rely on electrodes that are fixed on the outside of the skull. Semi Invasive techniques will involve implanting of the chip inside the body below the skin but rest outside the grey matter of the brain.

The EEG or the Electroencephalograph is a recording of the brain activity from outside the skull using electrodes that collect the signals that can read on the surface. The resolution of the signals which can be graphically represented will have a low resolution. In comparison,

The Semi invasive technique where the sensor is within the skin but outside the grey matter of the brain within the body such as “Electrocorticography” (ECoG) provides better data collection. ECoG measures the electrical activity of the brain taken from beneath the skull in a similar way to noninvasive electroencephalography, but the electrodes are embedded in a thin, plastic pad that is placed directly above the cortex, beneath the dura mater.

In the invasive technology, probes may directly be mounted on the grey matter of the brain and be capable of observing the signals more closely. It may have the potential to observe the activity of a single neuron.

The terms such as EEG or ECoG etc are more relevant for the neuro scientists but have been provided here for the general understanding of the architecture of technology related to Brain Interfaces.

However the end objective of the technology in medicine is to create a therapeutic usage where the implanted chip can cure deceases such as loss of short term memory, epilepsy, sectoral damage of brain etc. It is to be accepted that there is a huge benefit to the society from such technology and though we may focus more on the negative aspects to discuss the “Rights”, it is not the intention of the author to belittle the scientific developments. Eventually, this technology can  create “Cyborgs” and the possibility of misuse of technology is to be flagged for appropriate security response.

In terms of technology, the system of BCI involves

a) Acquisition of digital signals

b) Transmission of signals from the collection device to a back end device for futehr processing

c) Pre-processing of signals, Feature extraction and classification

d) Application interface to input the extracted data into an application

e) Processing of the data and converting it into useful information to the society

As compared to the EEGs a similar technology exists in the form of MRI. The MRI technology observes the changes caused in blood-oxygenation levels and its magnetic impact. It is like observation of a derived impact where as the EEG is a more direct observation of the neuro activity. An attempt is also being made to use both EEG and MRI technologies together for a better understanding of the brain activity.

We shall stop our discussion on the technology aspects related to NMT (neuro modulation technology) at this point and give time to assimilate the concepts.

The objective of this limited presentation so far is to draw the attention of the computer technologists to the potential available in this segment. We may continue and expand this discussion later in our discussions.


(PS: This exercise is an exploration of new thoughts in the journey to the world of Law, Science, Technology and finally the philosophy of human brain activity.   I invite comments and corrections to the above from other experts in the area.)

Earlier Articles

What are Neuro Rights?

Starting the journey to the Neuro Rights Law and Technology

The Age of Neuro Rights Dawns in India

New Dimensions of Privacy-Mental Privacy and Neuro Privacy Rights






About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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2 Responses to Brain Computer Interfaces

  1. dripwear says:

    informative content thanks for sharing

  2. Misna says:

    nice and interesting. this was my seminar topic in engineering degree. thank you for the great post

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