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Scientists Work on Hacking Stephen Hawking’s Brain

by Adriana Lee | July 1, 2012July 1, 2012 3:00 pm PST

Could you imagine directly accessing the brain of a genius as he mulls over the secrets of the universe? This may sound like science fiction stuff, but it’s real and being worked on by Stanford University scientists. They’re attempting to do what no one has done before: Hack the brain of renowned author and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

Scientists at Stanford University are working on something called the iBrain, a new tool that could allow Hawking to communicate via brain waves alone. “We’d like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain,” says the inventor, Stanford professor Philip Low.

For Hawking, the need is pressing. Due to a motor neurone disease, the physicist, 70, has been incapable of typical human speech for 30 years. As time went on, he grew to depend on his now-iconic speech-generating device, but the progressive nature of his condition is making it increasingly difficult for him to use the appliance. Enter Low and his team of researchers. Their project — basically a scanner that can detect electrical brain waves and communicate them via computer — could give Hawking a brand new way to communicate.

This is breakthrough work that could have far-reaching effects throughout the medical community. Imagine if the iBrain was perfected and implemented for use with other patients. This could blow the doors wide open for people suffering with paralysis or other speech-limiting conditions, and even boost the overall level of medical care for a wide range of diseases in the future.

But that’s a ways off yet. For now, the invention still needs to be presented to the scientific community, which will occur next month when the Stanford researchers introduce the iBrain at Cambridge University. Word has it, Hawking may even be in attendance to aid in a demonstration.

[via The Telegraph]

Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...