The team of American scientists BrainGate, specialized in the development of technologies for people with cerebral palsy, has carried out the first human test of a wireless brain-computer interface (BCI, for its acronym in English), which is capable of capturing and decoding signals in the human brain and transmitting them to external devices without a cable connection, RT reported on its website.
These interfaces allow people with disabilities to write on computer screens or manipulate robotic prosthetics. They work thanks to a chip implanted in the patient's motor cortex that records the signals emitted by neurons. The chip then sends this data to a computer that translates it into instructions that it sends, for example, to a robotic arm so that it moves in response to the subject's thoughts.
BCIs traditionally used in clinical trials require cables to connect the brain sensor array to computers. However, these cables greatly limit where and when patients can use the interface, while requiring expert supervision.
BraiGate scientists have succeeded in replacing them with a small transmitter of about 40 grams that is placed on the top of the head and that is connected to an array of electrodes within the motor cortex of the brain through the same port used by the systems. wired.
"We have shown that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the hard-wired systems that have been the gold standard in BCI performance for years," said John Simeral, assistant professor of engineering at Brown University and member. of the BrainGate Research Consortium.
"The only difference is that people no longer need to be physically 'tied' to our equipment, which opens up new possibilities in terms of using the system," explained the scientist, lead author of the study on the new technology, which has been published. this week in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
The device was tested by two men aged 35 and 63, both with spinal cord injuries. Unlike most BCI research that takes place in a laboratory, this time the study participants were able to use the system at home.
Experts stress that the move to this wireless device represents a major advance towards the main goal in the development of ICBs: a fully implantable intracortical system that helps restore communication, mobility and independence for people with neurological diseases, injuries. or without limbs.