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Our expert voices conversation on "When computers merge with our minds."

Brain interfaces that rely on wires inserted into the brain already have a huge impact on people with neurological disorders. However, wires damage the brain, take up space, and can only provide crude control. The technology is poised for disruption.

A better approach is needed to achieve the ultimate goal: a brain interface that communicates vast amounts of information quickly and accurately with other devices and minds. Today, we can genetically engineer neurons to build their own communication devices that deliver messages to and from computers optically, rather than electrically. These tools are so precise, we can use them to erase the fear associated with the memory of a traumatic event in lab mice. They can process a thousand times more neurons than state-of-the-art electrical interfaces. Unlike wires, light travels through the brain without causing damage, and takes up no space.

The challenges: Human brain tissue is thicker than mice, making it more difficult to deliver light to the right spots, and methods to engineer the genes of neurons must be proven safe in humans. But more difficult challenges and limitations exist for wired devices. Optical interfaces, with their specificity and the bandwidth they allow, will win.The other voices in the conversation:

Sridevi Sarma, biomedical engineer, Johns Hopkins University: How and how much to change the brainSteven Chase, biomedical engineer, Carnegie Mellon University: What to fearSliman Bensmaia, neurobiologist, University of Chicago: The internet inside your mind

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

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  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
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  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

11 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.