Sensor Could Lead to Wireless Brain-Computer Interface for Paralysed Patients

February 28, 2013 – 7:24 pm

Researchers at Brown University have reported the next advance in brain-computer interfaces, an implantable and rechargeable wireless sensor. The sensor could one day help people with severe paralysis control devices with their thoughts.

Arto Nurmikko, Professor of engineering at Brown University who lead the research, presented it this week at the 2013 International Workshop on Clinical Brain-Machine Interface Systems in Houston.

In the study, pigs and monkeys were implanted with the device and researchers used it to study and record the animals’ neural signals. A pill-sized chip of electrodes implanted on the cortex sends signals into the device’s titanium can. The system houses a battery, ultralow-power intergrated circuits, a wireless radio, infrared transmitters and a copper coil.

Several advances have been reported in brain-computer interfaces recently, but the device is unique since the system reportedly was operated wireless for more than 12 months in the animals studied. The device needs to be charged, however, on a regular basis. A two-hour charge allows for the system to operate for over six hours. Although the device cannot currently be used in brain-computer interfaces for humans, it was designed with that intention and the researchers hope to eventually accomplish that goal.

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