¨Turning thought into action¨

The Robotic arm moves  a thermos filled with coffee towards Cathy Hutchinson’s  mouth while she imagines carrying out this same motion with the very  hand she has been unable to move for the past fifteen years.

Amazingly, this is what Brain-Machine Interface technology can do.  This special communication system translates specific activity in the brain into commands for devices such as computers and robots, allowing a person to perform actions without using muscles and peripheral nerves.

While clinical trials with the first version of the BrainGate system began several years ago, these merely had patients control the placement of a cursor on a screen.  Displayed in the video above, researchers from Brown University, The Massachusetts General Hospital and The Stanford School of Medicine have now proven that people who have become paralysed due to stroke or spinal injury are also capable of grasping and moving objects with the BrainGate2 system.

The BrainGate team is focused on developing technologies to restore the communication, mobility, and independence of people with neurologic disease, injury, or limb loss. The diverse team that brings together scientists, engineers and physicians will continue to work closely together to create the ultimate device that will work effectively and reliably for the broadest range of patients.

The paper describing these finding was published in last week’s Nature. Access it HERE.

This entry was posted in Robots and Research, Robots and Society, Robots, Brain, Mind and Behaviour and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to BrainGate2

  1. Mesha Hylton says:

    Hello Everyone,

    I would like to delve deeper into one of the new technologies Dr. Kaku mentioned, about how a chip was implanted in to the brain of a paralyzed person and that person was able to use a computer by sheer thought. After researching “Brain Gate” I’ve discovered that there have been significant strides since Dr. Kaku lecture. With the current research there has been studies on people with tetraplegia using brain signals to control a robotic arm. The implanted chip has been documented to still work after five years. Now this research is using external robotic arms, so it isn’t yet attached to individuals who has lost a limb or multiple limbs. From what I gathered too was that the process is limited to one robotic arm at a time.

    This isn’t buy far discouraging in fact the focus with the BrainGate study is for restoring mobility to the paralyzed and amputees. This idea however leads me to another. At the current level of the research a person can control an external limb through a computer. What if, this external arm was on the other side of the world? What if it was at the very bottom of the ocean? What I figure is if the robotic arm is responding to commands from a computer, the arm doesn’t physically need to be there, it can be anywhere! Its exciting to think of the possibilities at the current level of the research. What if the research proliferates? Lets say the chip gets smaller and the commands comes from another subject, like lets say the Fire Ant. We can finally build those nano robots and launch them into outer space and colonized the universe! Using the basic motor function of a Fire Ants would replicate its strong survival instincts.

    The connection between BrainGate and Nano Robot Technology can be a great step into the idea of colonizing the universe. I think using the Fire Ant to be the driving command of nano robots in outer space is brilliant. See that they are invasive and hard to be rid of without its natural enemy.
    there is still the issue of reproducing. But what if everything had a brain? If not a brain a motor function, instinct or muscle memory? Can we somehow tap into the reproductive organs instinct to duplicate or nano robots? That question is left to be answered one day. The size of an ant is more aesthetically pleasing for the nano robot to emulate, but there are many hurdles to jump before this can become a possibility. Which leads me back to the BrainGate trials. The robotic arms they use are not proportional to the persons physical body which I think made the trials more nor less inefficient. Insufficient to the point that the individual has to learn to exert precision control (diameter of an object to grab etc.) as oppose to the natural-likeness of limbs aesthetically shape and proportioned to that individual.

    Looking towards the future of this advancement in physics, I can’t wait until physicist dabble into the receiving end of brain function. So far I think research is focusing on sending brain information and commands to the computer. I can’t wait until the find a way for our brain to receive information so that possibly one day it will allow the blind to see through a video lens. Once again one idea leads to another since information nowadays are being sent through space and long distance. We can, once its possible to utilize these ideas, see through and move a external device over long distance.

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