The electric brain: a dialog full of promises

The brain mainly works through electricity, and this particularity allows us to alter how it works for our benefit. Surgically implanted electrodes can be used to control, for example, the symptoms of Parkinson, and scientists are looking into applying them in other, serious pathologies like cerebral infarctions. Moreover, part of the information emitted can be decoded using a computer. This is leading to the creation of interfaces that allow paralyzed patients to move robotic arms or control their own wheelchairs with their mind. For healthy people, electric stimulation seems to be able to boost skills like memory, but the middle and long-term side effects aren’t yet known.

Some of the top global experts in the field presented their work at this B·Debate –an initiative of Biocat and the "la Caixa" Foundation to promote scientific debate– co-organized by IDIBAPS.


  1. The field of neuroscience is in its best moment. One of the greatest possibilities it offers is to use electricity to manipulate the workings of the brain. This allows for the use of stimulation techniques and brain/computer interfaces in patients with specific conditions as well as in healthy people
  2. Electric stimulation can treat the symptoms of Parkinson, epilepsy or resistant depression. For healthy people, it could improve memory or sleep quality, however most scientists are cautious in these cases due to the lack of long-term studies
  3. The electric signals emitted by the brain can be partially decoded using a computer. This means they can be used to control a robotic arm, a wheelchair or even to write on a screen just with a person’s thoughts. Scientists demand funding for more clinical trials and to find new applications
  4. Researchers are looking into more new technology, like for example using  graphene in different devices or optogenetics and optopharmaceuticals, which can control neuron behavior with light