Over the past several years, scientists have begun to address the needs of people with severe disabilities brought on by paralysis or injury by developing brain-computer interfaces (BCIs). These systems allow people to use signals directly from the brain for communication and control of movement. The research has progressed to a point where clinical applications can be anticipated, says Jonathan Wolpaw, MD, chair of the symposium, "Brain-Computer Interfaces for Communication and Control."
Research in technologies for obtaining brain signals for BCI applications has led to the development of implantable BCI devices that could be used by people with severe motor disabilities. In other work, investigators report advances in BCI-based movement control.
The BCIs already available and those under development differ greatly in the brain signals they use, in how they detect those signals, in the methods they use to translate the signals to carry out the person's commands, and in the kinds of devices the signals control.
Groundbreaking work conducted by Douglas J. Weber, PhD, at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues has led to the development of an implantable microelectrode array that can record neural sensory responses resulting from movements of the leg. The investigators have developed an analysis technique that allows accurate prediction of leg positions from the patterns of recorded neural activity.
The technique relies on the fact that multiple sensors acting together provide the central nervous system with important feedback for controlling movement. For example, sensors called muscle spindles that are embedded in muscle fibers measure the length and speed of muscle
Contact: Dawn McCoy
Society for Neuroscience