consortium, made up of scientists, engineers and physicians, has developed a
BCI that can be operated by a paralytic patient, just by thinking about moving
the cursor and clicking it, using a virtual Bluetooth mouse. The study has been
published in the journal
. Two of the
participants had lost the ability to move their arms and legs due to
disease that destroys the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, which control
movement. The third participant was paralyzed due to
. These three participants
were enrolled in the clinical trial to assess the safety and feasibility of
application of the new BrainGate BCI device.
had a sensor attached to an area of the brain called the motor cortex. This
capsule-sized implant is able to pick-up brainwave signals generated by the
motor cortex that are associated with planning of intended movements. These
signals are decoded and passed on to an external Bluetooth device, which was
configured to function similar to a wireless mouse. This virtual mouse was then
aligned with a standard Google Nexus 9 tablet.
were plugged-in to the device and asked to perform standard tasks to assess how
well they were able to operate a variety of commonly used apps, and move
between apps. It has been shown that a similar type of device can enable
paralyzed patients to operate robotic arms and regain mobility in their limbs.
The BrainGate BCI
enabled the participants to pass their thoughts for communicating with the
outside world. They could smoothly
perform typical operations such as e-mailing, chatting, and music/video streaming
and sharing. They were delighted to be able to communicate with their family,
friends, co-participants, as well as the research staff.
of the participants, who was a musician, was even able to play the piano on a
Henderson, MD, John and Jene Blume - Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor of
Neurosurgery, Department of Neurology, Stanford University Medical Center, USA,
and a senior author of the study, said: "For
years, the BrainGate collaboration has been working to develop the neuroscience
and neuroengineering know-how to enable people who have lost motor abilities to
control external devices just by thinking about the movement of their own arm
He added: "In
this study, we've harnessed that know-how to restore people's ability to
control the exact same everyday technologies they were using before the onset
of their illnesses. It was wonderful to see the participants express themselves
or just find a song they want to hear."
The study found
- The participants could make up to 22
point-and-click operations per minute on various apps
- They could also type up to 30 characters per minute
using standard text apps used for sending e-mails and other writing
Dr. Paul Nuyujukian, PhD, MD, who is an
Assistant Professor at the Department of Bioengineering, Neurosurgery, and (by
courtesy) Electrical Engineering and Director of the Brain Interfacing
Laboratory, Stanford University, USA, and the lead author of the study,
indicated that it was great to see how quickly and effortlessly the study
participants learned to use the new BrainGate system and perform the tasks assigned
to them, as well as for pursuing their own interests.
Sanabria, who performed this research as a doctoral student in Biomedical
Engineering at Brown University, USA, indicated that the technology had
immense potential to restore rapid and reliable communication for patients who
had lost their power to speak due to paralysis.
This would enable them to effectively communicate with their family, friends,
as well as interact with their health care providers.
Shenoy, PhD, Hong Seh and Vivian W. M. Professor of Engineering, Stanford
University, USA, and a senior author of the study, said: "The assistive technologies that are available today,
while they're important and useful, are all inherently limited in terms of
either the speed of use they enable, or the flexibility of the interface."
He added: "That's largely because of the limited input
signals that are available. With the richness of the input from the BCI, we
were able to just buy two tablets on Amazon, turn on Bluetooth and the
participants could use them with our investigational BrainGate system right out
of the box."
Hochberg, MD, PhD, Professor of Engineering, Brown University, Director, Center for
Neurotechnology and Neurorecovery, Neurocritical Care and Acute Stroke
Services, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Director, VA RR&D
Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology (CfNN), the Providence VA
Medical Center, USA, and a senior author of the study, felt that there was a
huge potential for the restorative capabilities of BCIs, used in the present
"When I see somebody in the neuro-intensive care unit
who has had an acute stroke and has lost the ability to move or
communicate, I'd like to be able to say, 'I'm very sorry this has happened, but
we can restore your ability to use the technologies you were using before this
happened, and you'll be able to use them again tomorrow,'"
Hochberg said. "And we are getting closer to being able to
tell someone who has been diagnosed with ALS, 'even while we continue to seek
out a cure, you will never lose the ability to communicate.' This work is a
step toward those goals."
The research was
funded by the Stanford Medical Scientist Training Program; Stanford Office of
Postdoctoral Affairs; Craig H. Neilsen Foundation; Stanford Neurosciences
Institute; Stanford BioX-NeuroVentures, Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation
and Translational Neuroscience, as well as many other organizations. Reference :
- Cortical control of a tablet computer by people with paralysis - (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0204566)