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Scientists detail latest advances in development of prosthetic devices for paralyzed

SAN DIEGO -- October 26, 2004 New research is speeding the development of brain-controlled devices that may soon allow amputees and paraplegics to use their limbs. Within a few short years, these so-called brain-computer interfaces (BCI) may also allow people completely paralyzed by neurodegenerative diseases to regain some movement or ability to communicate with those around them. The new research was presented at the 34th Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego.

In recent work, scientists created a BCI that collects information from hundreds of thousands of brain cells at once. In other new work, researchers have used electrodes that do not penetrate the brain to record brain activity that can control a BCI. Swedish scientists have greatly refined a prosthetic hand. And other scientists have trained a monkey to use a robotic arm controlled by its own thoughts.

The first brain-controlled movement came several years ago, with patients moving objects in virtual reality. Now four groups of scientists have built upon the earlier studies to bring the field closer to prosthetic devices controlled by thought. "We are rapidly approaching a milestone," says Andrew Schwartz, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Neurobiology, referring to his work with a new anthropomorphic robotic arm.

Neuronal activity measurements are used to control BCIs. They are recorded either from individual brain cells (called single-unit recording) or from the scalp using electroencephalography (EEG). The recorded brain signals are then used to control a physical or virtual device that carries out a task according to the user's intent.

Both methods have their advantages and drawbacks. Recording from inside the brain requires that electrodes be surgically implanted, carrying the risk of infection. Neural scarring around the electrodes can also build up over time and cloud the data used to control the device. EEG measurements, on the othe
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Contact: Leah Ariniello
dawn@sfn.org
202-462-6688
Society for Neuroscience
26-Oct-2004


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