New Implant Turns Brain Impulses Into Motion
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 13, 2006
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND--This week, television and online news services have been running video segments featuring what is being called a medical breakthrough: Matthew Nagle, a spinal cord injury survivor paralyzed from the neck down for the last five years, now sending e-mail, turning on and controlling the volume of his TV, moving a pointer on a computer screen, and operating a simple robot -- all with his thoughts.
The hoopla coincides with the publication in this week's edition of the journal Nature about research into the use of neuroprostheses -- devices that take electrical brain impulses and turn them into physical movements.
In Nagle's case, he has been "interfacing" with a BrainGate system, which uses a tiny electronic implant (think "The Matrix") to take signals from the parts of his brain that used to control his arms, then uses computer software to translate those signals into specific activities.
The researchers say that these devices will allow people to communicate and interact meaningfully with their environments even if they cannot talk or move. They point out that, while it may take a decade or more, it is not unreasonable to believe that someday such technology would advance to the point that devices could be used to operate their own arms, hands and legs.
Tests are currently being done on at least three other people who, for different reasons, cannot move their arms.
"Paralyzed Man Uses Thoughts to Move a Cursor" (New York Times)
"Is this the bionic man?" (Nature)
"Brain-machine interfaces" (Nature)
Report: Neuronal ensemble control of prosthetic devices by a human with tetraplegia" (Nature)
"BrainGate Neural Interface System" (Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, Inc.)