It’s a topic that Leuthardt, a 44-year-old scientist and brain surgeon, has spent a lot of time imagining.
Encouraging enough to instill in Leuthardt the certitude of a true believer-one who might sound like a crackpot, were he not a brain surgeon who deals in the life-and-death realm of the operating room, where there is no room for hubris or delusion.
Leuthardt knows better than most that brain surgery is dangerous, scary, and difficult for the patient.
To install them, Leuthardt performed an initial operation in which he removed the top of the skull, cut through the dura, and placed the electrodes directly on top of the brain.
After the initial surgery, the patient stops taking anti-seizure medication, which will eventually prompt an epileptic episode-and the data about its physical source helps doctors like Leuthardt decide which section of the brain to resect in order to forestall future episodes.
Leuthardt recruited 12 bedridden epilepsy patients, confined to their rooms and bored as they waited to have seizures, and presented each one with 36 words that had a relatively simple consonant-vowel-consonant structure, such as “Bet,” “Bat,” “Beat,” and “Boot.” He asked the patients to say the words out loud and then to simply imagine saying them-conveying the instructions visually, with no audio, and again vocally, with no video, to make sure that he could identify incoming sensory signals in the brain.
Leuthardt can achieve far more transformative feats using his implanted electrodes that sit directly on the cortex of the brain.