As the power of modern computers grows alongside our understanding of the human brain, we move ever closer to making some pretty spectacular science fiction into reality.
A­Although the paths the signals take are insulated by something called myelin, some of the electric signal escapes. Imagine transmitting signals directly to someone's brain that would allow them to see, hear or feel specific sensory inputs. Our brains are filled with neurons, individual nerve cells connected to one another by dendrites and axons.
Scientists can detect those signals, interpret what they mean and use them to direct a device of some kind.

Consider the potential to manipulate computers or machinery with nothing more than a thought.
It isn't about convenience -- for severely disabled people, development of a brain-computer interface (BCI) could be the most important technological breakthrough in decades.
That work is carried out by small electric signals that zip from neuron to neuron as fast as 250 mph [source: Walker].
For example, researchers could figure out what signals are sent to the brain by the optic nerve when someone sees the color red. In this article, we'll learn all about how BCIs work, their limitations and where they could be headed in the future.

The signals are generated by differences in electric potential carried by ions on the membrane of each neuron.

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