Faster Thinking & Moving

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News July 2018

Researchers at Brown University are working on ways to speed up and improve brain-computer interface technology.

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For a brain-computer interface (BCI) to be truly useful for a person with tetraplegia, it should be ready whenever it’s needed, with minimal expert intervention, including the very first time it’s used. In a study in the Journal of Neural Engineering, researchers in the BrainGate collaboration demonstrate new techniques that allowed three participants to achieve peak BCI performance within three minutes of engaging in an easy, one-step process.

One Step Closer

One participant, “T5,” a 63-year-old man who had never used a BCI before, needed only 37 seconds of calibration time before he could control a computer cursor to reach targets on a screen, just by imagining using his hand to move a joystick. David Brandman, MD, lead author of the study and an engineering postdoctoral researcher at Brown University in Providence, R.I., says that while additional innovations will help to move implantable BCIs like BrainGate toward clinical availability for patients, this advance of rapid, intuitive calibration is a key one. It could allow future users and their caregivers to use the system much more quickly and to keep it calibrated over the long term.

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