The BrainGate2 implant is an electrode array system which essentially translates thought into text. It has enabled three people who are paralyzed from the neck down to use unmodified tablets to browse the internet, text friends, and stream music. These findings can go a long way in improving the lives of people who are paralyzed or suffer from a neurologic disease.
BrainGate 2 relies on an array of micro-electrodes implanted into the brain. They can decode the neural signals that are associated with the intention to move a limb in real-time. The three people who were involved in this trial had it implanted over part of their motor cortex, that’s the part of the brain which helps control movement.
The implant picked up the neural activity which indicated that they were thinking about moving a cursor on the screen. Those neural signals were then sent to a virtual mouse which was paired to the tablet wirelessly.
The participants were thus able to perform common digital tasks such as web browsing and music streaming using just their thoughts. One even played a digital piano. Sheresearchers that “The tablet became second nature to me, very intuitive.”
The technology itself isn’t new as it has been around for a few years. What’s interesting about this particular iteration is that it enables users to navigate completely unmodified devices taken right off the shelf without any changes or special features. These findings show that this technology can indeed be used to bring back mobility and communication independence to those who otherwise have limited control without requiring expensive equipment.
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