Brain Computer Interface: how can we control the electronic devices

BCI

The most amazing medical technology until now is the one about the Brain Computer Interface (BCI) for the experts of the sector.

The Brown University, of the Massachusetts General Hospital, from the Harvard Medical School, of the Department of the Veterans’ Affair and of the german Aerospacial Center (DLR), is the supporter of this technology and even the lair of the scientists that work on this project.

The BrainGate BCI

The Brown University created a device, the BrainGate, on which is focused the whole study. The BrainGate is a neural interface’s instrument BCI. The BCI is focused on an electroencephalography that allows to let the central nervous system communicates, through electrodes, with every kinds of external devices.

The BrainGate is basically a way to controll, through our neural intention, the remote electronic external objects. The device is composed by a grill of 96 electrodes which are inserted inside the human brain.

Those electrodes are able to catch the activity related to the thought of a movement. “Those electrical impulse are then red by an external computer that translates them in an action, which directs devices like robotic arms and artificial legs“, explains John Donoghue, director of the Brain Science’s Institute of the Brown University.

Brain Computer Interface

The experimental BrainGate BCI includes a reduced size system that reveals the signs related with the movements planned by the brain. Those signs are so decoded and sent to external devices.

The BrainGate’s researchers and other groups that use similar technologies demonstrated that the devices could allow the people to move robotic arms or to regain the usage of the limbs, even though they lost the mobolity because of sickness.

This study is the result of the cooperation of scientists, engineers and doctors of the Carney Institute of the Brown University for Brain Science, of the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center (PVAMC), from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and of the Stanford University.

Many clinical tests were made to evaluate the safety and the practicability of the system BrainGate.

Brain Computer Interface
BrainGate communication

The tests BrainGate

Some people affected from paralysis attended to the tests BrainGate, but how?

Through this instrument, the people subject to tests were able to chat with relatives through, for example, Whatsapp, bought products online, used many applications for PC or tablet, controlled the weather: everything by just thinking to push specific letters on the electronic keyboard.

For years, the BrainGate’s team worked to allow the people that lost the mobility, to controll external devices by just thinking the possible movements of their own arm or hand“, said Jaimie Henderson, a brain surgeon of the Stanford University.

This study has the purpose to regain the ability of the people to exactly controll the same daily technologies that used before the beginning of their illness. Was amazing to see the participants speak or just find online a song that they wanted to listen for a while“.

The tests demonstrated that the partecipants were able to do up to 22 “tought clicks” per minute while they were using many apps. About the text apps, the partecipants were able to type up to 30 letters per minute by using the email and text standard interfaces.

The partecipants said to found the interface intuitive and funny to use. One of the people subject of the test claimed: “It seemed more natural of the last time I remembered to use a mouse“.

Sheet of functioning of the BCI BrainGate technology
Sheet of functioning of the BCI BrainGate technology

The results of the tests and the advantages BrainGate

The researchers are really satisfied about the results: “Was amazing to see our partecipants to do what they wanted to do, even see them just using the favourite apps for the shopping, or see a video or chat with friends“, said Dr. Paul Nuyujukian, a bioengineer of Stanford.

“One of the partecipant said us at the beginning of the process that one of the thing that he really wanted to do was to play again the music”. And yes, through the BrainGate BCI the patient, ex musician, did a song of Beethoven on a digital piano’s interface.

The researchers say that the study has the potential to open important new lines of communication between the patients with serious neurological diseases and their suppliers of health care. The BCI restore the comminication reliable, quick and rich for every person that, for example, can’t speak any more.

Furthermore, this technological-medical system can help a lot the patients to easily communicate with relatives and friends, so to don’t isolate them and to avoid the incommunicability, due to the sickness.

But much more important is the advantage to obtain a big helth efficiency: the BCI is a way to controll and to investigate the health problems of a patient.

BrainGate
BrainGate

This post is also available in: itItaliano

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