Braingate system Seminar report
BrainGate is a brain implant system developed by the bio-tech company Cyberkinetics in 2003 in conjunction with the Department of Neuroscience at Brown University. The device was designed to help those who have lost control of their limbs, or other bodily functions, such as patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or spinal cord injury. The computer chip, which is implanted into the brain, monitors brain activity in the patient and converts the intention of the user into computer commands. Cyberkinetics describes that "such applications may include novel communications interfaces for motor impaired patients, as well as the monitoring and treatment of certain diseases which manifest themselves in patterns of brain activity, such as epilepsy and depression."
Currently the chip uses 100 hair-thin electrodes that sense the electro-magnetic signature of neurons firing in specific areas of the brain, for example, the area that controls arm movement. The activities are translated into electrically charged signals and are then sent and decoded using a program, which can move either a robotic arm or a computer cursor. According to the Cyberkinetics' website, three patients have been implanted with the BrainGate system. The company has confirmed that one patient (Matt Nagle) has a spinal cord injury, while another has advanced ALS.
The remarkable breakthrough offers hope that people who are paralyzed will one day be able to independently operate artificial limbs, computers or wheelchairs. The implant, called BrainGate, allowed Matthew Nagle, a 25-year-old Massachusetts man who has been paralyzed from the neck down since 2001, to control a cursor on a screen and to open and close the hand on a prosthetic limb just by thinking about the relevant actions. The movements were his first since he was stabbed five years ago. The attack severed his spinal cord. "The results hold out the promise to one day be able to activate limb muscles with these brain signals, effectively restoring brain to muscle control via a physical nervous system," said John Donoghue, director of the brain science program at Brown University, Rhode Island, and chief scientific officer of Cyberkinetics, the company behind the brain implant. Professor Donoghue's work is published today in Nature. He describes how, after a few minutes spent calibrating the implant, Mr. Nagle could read emails and play the computer game Pong. He was able to draw circular shapes using a paint program and could also change channel and turn up the volume on a television, even while talking to people around him. After several months, he could also operate simple robotic devices such as a prosthetic hand, which he used to grasp and move objects.
In addition to real-time analysis of neuron patterns to relay movement, the Braingate array is also capable of recording electrical data for later analysis. A potential use of this feature would be for a neurologist to study seizure patterns in a patient with epilepsy. The 'BrainGate' device can provide paralyzed or motor-impaired patients a mode of communication through the translation of thought into direct computer control. The technology driving this breakthrough in the Brain-Machine-Interface field has a myriad of potential applications, including the development of human augmentation for military and commercial purposes.
The Braingate Neural Interface device consists of a tiny chip containing 100 microscopic electrodes that is surgically implanted in the brain's motor cortex. The whole apparatus is the size of a baby aspirin. The chip can read signals from the motor cortex, send that information to a computer via connected wires, and translate it to control the movement of a computer cursor or a robotic arm. According to Dr. John Donaghue of Cyberkinetics, there is practically no training required to use BrainGate because the signals read by a chip implanted, for example, in the area of the motor cortex for arm movement, are the same signals that would be sent to the real arm. A user with an implanted chip can immediately begin to move a cursor with thought alone. However, because movement carries a variety of information such as velocity, direction, and acceleration, there are many neurons involved in controlling that movement. BrainGate is only reading signals from an extremely small sample of those cells and, therefore, only receiving a fraction of the instructions. Without all of the information, the initial control of a robotic hand may not be as smooth as the natural movement of a real hand. But with practice, the user can refine those movements using signals from only that sample of cells.
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