Monday, August 04, 2008

Brain signal decoder

Interfacing with the brain to control devices such as wheelchairs, robots and prosthetic devices has great potential. Monkeys have shown impressive ability to control robot limbs using brain implants, but must "rewire" their brains through training to do it.

It would make things easier to use the signals naturally used for hand-eye coordination. But nobody has been able to figure out how the part of the brain responsible for hand-eye coordination, the primary motor cortex, does its job. Even recording the activity of this brain region has proved difficult.

Now, John Donoghue and colleagues at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, have designed a new implant to make the task easier. They have also created software that turns these brain signals into code that controls an external device.

The team tested the device on the brains of monkeys as they watched objects move in front of them. In this way, the researchers built up a database of signals that could be used to work out a decoding strategy.

The result is a brain implant that can translate the hand trajectory signals produced by the brain and use them to control an external device.

Read the full brain signal decoder patent application

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