Connecting Brain to Tablet—a Relief to Paralyzed Patients
Paul Nuyujukian – Research
The goal of my work is to better understand the human brain and build tools that help people with brain-related injury or disease. A class of emerging medical devices under research are brain-machine interfaces (BMIs), also known as neural prostheses. These systems interface with the brain, recording neural activity, and interpret brain signals for controlling electronic systems. Brain-machine interfaces could be used to control computer cursors and keyboards, navigate wheelchairs, and control robotic limbs. They aim to improve the quality of life of people with paralysis.
Human clinical study
Stanford is a clinical site with the BrainGate2 early-feasibility clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov ID NCT00912041).
Human participants who have spinal cord injury or neurodegenerative disease are eligible for participation in the research study.
Participants undergo neurosurgery to implant small multielectrode arrays in motor regions of their brain.
These arrays are then connected to recording equipment which digitizes their brain activity for interpretation (i.e. ‘‘decoding’’) by the computational system.
The computer uses this activity to control an electronic device.
This figure diagrams an example brain-machine interface.
Participant T6, a woman with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease), is shown in this example controlling a computer cursor using her thoughts.
She navigates the cursor in two dimensions and clicks on the intended letter on the virtual keyboard, spelling out words and sentences.
Using this system, she can type at six words per minute.
For more details, see our recent conference abstracts (Nuyujukian*, Pandarinath*, et al., SFN 2014) and (Pandarinath*, Nuyujukian*, et al., SFN 2014).
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Scientists Connect Brain to a Basic Tablet—Paralyzed Patient Googles With Ease
By Shelly Fan ON Oct 25, 2015
For patient T6, 2014 was a happy year.
Like T6, millions of people worldwide have severe paralysis from spinal cord injury, stroke or neurodegenerative diseases, which precludes their ability to speak, write or otherwise communicate their thoughts and intentions to their loved ones.
In contrast to eye-trackers, neural prostheses directly interface the brain with computers, in essence cutting out the middleman — the sensory organs that we normally use to interact with our environment.
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How mind-controlled tablet technology could help people with paralysis communicate
Claire Brownell | November 2, 2015
The cable sticking out of this woman's head is attached to an implant in her brain that allows a computer to interpret her thoughts. The woman, dubbed Participant T6 by the Stanford researchers running the trial, has used this technology to browse the Internet on a tablet using her mind.
HandoutThe cable sticking out of this woman's head is attached to an implant in her brain that allows a computer to interpret her thoughts. The woman, dubbed Participant T6 by the Stanford researchers running the trial, has used this technology to browse the Internet on a tablet using her mind.
A California woman with a chip implanted in her brain has successfully browsed the web using a tablet powered by her thoughts, bringing scientists one step closer to helping people who are completely paralyzed engage with the outside world.
The woman, known as clinical trial participant T6, has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which is otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. She can talk, manipulate objects and get around in a wheelchair, but the terminal disease will eventually render her completely paralyzed.
What’s more, scientists were able to replicate the results in a second participant on the east coast, Nuyujukian said in an interview. But Nuyujukian approaches the topic with a scientist’s caution, noting the technology is still being tested for safety and it’s too early to say for sure whether it will have useful medical applications.
A less cautious person, on the other hand, might be forgiven for being a little more excited. Scientists have plugged a woman’s head into a mind-reading computer that helped her browse the web for gardening advice. “Implication of clinical benefit” or not, that’s huge. If future trials prove successful, the same technology could also allow paralyzed people to control robot arms and other prostheses with their thoughts.
The scientists bought a Nexus 9 tablet with an Android operating system and used a Bluetooth connection to pair it with the computer interpreting the participant’s thoughts. Nuyujukian said the technology that links the computer plugged into the participant’s brain with the tablet is essentially the same the technology that powers a wireless mouse.
It worked beautifully. Using the technology, T6 could do anything anyone else could do with a tablet. She searched the web for tips on gardening orchids, sent emails and played a tune using a keyboard app.
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Scientists Connect Tablet To Brain Of Paralyzed Patient
By Tyler Lee on 10/25/2015
That was not the only success story from BrainGate. Recently it has been revealed that scientists have managed to connect a tablet to a patient’s brain who is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. This was done by modifying an existing setup in which implanted electrodes into the patient’s brain. These electrodes recorded brain activity so when the patient looking at a key on the keyboard, that key would then be “pressed”.
However that setup was found to be painfully slow, and not to mention not particularly accurate, which is when the team behind the system realized that they could apply the technology to touchscreen devices, leading them to choose the Nexus 9 tablet for their trials. This proved to be a success thanks to several features of the operating system such as autocomplete, which helped speed up typing.
The fact that the patient now has access to the entire app store also expanded what they can do with it and improving their quality of life. However this is just the start. According to Dr. Paul Nuyujukian, a neuroengineer and physician from Stanford University, “Our goal is to unlock the full user interface common to general-purpose computers and mobile devices. This is a first step towards developing a fully-capable brain-controlled communication and computer interface for restoring function for people with paralysis.”
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Image by Paul Nuyujukian