What is Brain Gate Technology?

Posted: January 26, 2011 in pOSts


Developed in 2008 by the Cyberkinetics a bio-tech company in combination with Department of Neuroscience at Brown University, Brain Gate is a brain implant mind-to-movement system useful for people with neurologic disease, spinal cord injury or limb loss to sense, transmit and analyse through the language of neurons. The main principle behind the Brain Gate System is to communicate and control common every-day functions literally through thought and with intact brain function, brain signals are generated even though they are not sent to the arms, hands and legs. These signals are interpreted and translated into cursor movements allowing the user to control a computer with only his thought like a man moves a mouse using his hands.

The existing technology stimulates muscle groups that can make an arm move. The problem was in creating an input or control signal. With the right control signal they found they could stimulate the right muscle groups to make arm movement through Brain Gate. The main aim of the Brain Gate program is to develop a fast, reliable and unobtrusive connection between brain of a severely disabled person and a personal computer.

The Brain Gate Neural Interface device is a proprietary brain-computer interface that consists of an internal neural signal sensor and external processors that convert neural signals into an output signal under the users own control. The sensor consists of a tiny chip smaller than a baby aspirin, with 100 electrode sensors each thinner than a hair that sense the electro-magnetic signature of neurons firing in specific areas of the brain, for example, the area that controls arm movement. The activity is further translated into electrically charged signals and is then sent and decoded using a program, which can move a robotic arm, a computer cursor, or even a wheelchair.

The chip is implanted on the surface of the brain in the motor cortex area that controls movement. In the pilot version of the device, a cable connects the sensor to an external signal processor in a cart that contains computers. The computers translate brain activity and create the communication output using custom decoding software.

Matthew Nagle, a 25-year-old Massachusetts man with a severe spinal cord injury,has been paralyzed from the neck down since 2001.After taking part in a clinical trial of this system, he has opened e-mail, switched TV channels, turned on lights. He even moved a robotic hand from his wheelchair. This marks the first time that neural movement signals have been recorded and decoded in a human with spinal cord injury. The system is also the first to allow a human to control his surrounding environment using his mind.

Rats implanted with BCIs in Theodore Berger’s experiments. Several laboratories have managed to record signals from monkey and rat cerebral cortexes in order to operate BCIs to carry out movement. In 2009, monkeys have navigated computer cursors on screen and commanded robotic arms to perform simple tasks simply by thinking about the task and without any motor output.

Conclusion: The idea of moving robots or prosthetic devices not by manual control, but by mere “thinking” (i.e., the brain activity of human subjects) has been a fascinated approach. Medical cures are unavailable for many forms of neural and muscular paralysis. The enormity of the deficits caused by paralysis is a strong motivation to pursue BMI solutions. So this idea helps many patients to control the prosthetic devices of their own by simply thinking about the task. Cyberkinetics hopes to refine the BrainGate in the next two years to develop a wireless device that is completely implantable and doesn’t have a plug, making it safer and less visible. And once the basics of brain mapping are worked out there is potential for a wide variety of further applications.

This technology is well supported by the latest fields of Biomedical Instrumentation, Microelectronics, signal processing, Artificial Neural Networks and Robotics which has overwhelming developments. Hope these systems will be effectively implemented for many Biomedical applications.

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