A new research found that brain implants can be used to stimulate neural signals that harness a direct movement. This is particularly useful for people whose lives are affected by a neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss.
Three people paralyzed from the neck down were able to navigate off and use the computer tablets to text friends, browse the internet and stream music using an electrode array system called BrainGate2. The system comprises of an array of microelectrodes implanted into the brain which decodes the neural signals in real time, linked with the movement of a limb. The participants were implanted with the electrode grids over part of their motor cortex (the area of the brain helps control movement) which detected the neural activity highlighting they were thinking about moving a cursor on the screen. Those patterns were then forwarded to a virtual mouse for interpretation that was wirelessly attached to the tablet.
The participants were able to perform a wide range of common digital tasks including sending text messages, web browsing, streaming music, and sending an email. One participant ordered groceries online and played a digital piano. “The tablet became second nature to me, very intuitive,” she told the researchers when asked about her experience, according to the study. The two participants even did a chat with each other in real time using this system.
According to the study report, “Participants navigated the user interface comfortably despite not having access to all of the gestures commonly used on a tablet (e.g., click and drag, multitouch). This precluded certain functions such as scrolling up and down on the tablet web browser. Some of these limitations would have been overcome by enabling accessibility features found in the Android OS or third-party programs. Additionally, modifying the Android OS keyboard layout as we have done in prior reports would have likely increased typing rates.”
The findings show how communication and mobility can be partially restored to those who are differently abled and their movements are restricted over their environment, and without the need for expensive or specialist equipment, brain implant will have a hugely positive impact on the lives of people around the world.