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At the 2013 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, skin-mounted tattoo-sized electronics were presented as a way to monitor brain activity and provide a means of communication between the brain and computers. Neuroprosthetics allows control of brain activity by sending electrical signals from computers to the brain and may soon provide sensory feedback through brain-computer-brain interfaces. Researchers proposed that skin-mounted tattoo electronics could improve the quality of life for patients ranging from amputees to those who are paralyzed.


Todd Coleman (Associate Professor, University of California, San Diego) remarked, "Things we used to think were hoaxes in science fiction are fast becoming a reality." Noninvasive electronic tattoos, the size of a postage stamp, the width of a human hair, bendable and stretchable, can track electrical rhythms on the body surface. These devices can be used tomonitor clinical events ranging fromlabor contractions to seizure activity. In addition, signals in the form of auditory and light waves can be exchanged readily between the brain and a computer. Along with expected benefits, speakers addressed ethical, legal, and social issues as well as issues involving access to and costs and potential misuse of the devices.


Cochlear implants are an example of a familiar neuroprosthesis. These devices allowsoundwaves to be converted into electrical signals that the brain can interpret. This technology was developed to help correct a health deficit as well as to perform a critical clinical function. Electronic tattoos are being developed for the same reasons.


However, there are those who view these advances as a quest to produce a better or more perfect human. Researchers assured the audience that this was not a realistic possibility. Still, the brain-machine-brain interface needs to be considered as a serious reality.


Source: Schafffer C, Ham B. Machines that communicate with the body. February 16, 2013. Available at Accessed June 17, 2013.


Submitted by: Alma Jackson, PhD, RN, COHN-S, News Editor