The world’s first wireless brain computer interface has been successfully tested on the human brain

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The first wireless brain-computer interface (BCI) system not only gives people with paralysis the ability to type with their minds on computer screens, but the innovation also gives them the freedom to do so from anywhere.

Traditional BCIs attach to a large transmitter with long cables, but a team from Brown University cut the cords and replaced it with a small transmitter that sits on top of the user’s head.

The redesigned equipment is just three inches in diameter and connects to an electrode array in the brain’s motor cortex through the same port used by wired systems.

The trials, called BrainGate, showed that two men paralyzed by spinal cord injury were able to type and click on a tablet just thinking of the action, and did so with the same point-and-click. accuracy and typing speed as men with a wired system. .

A participant in the BrainGate clinical study uses wireless transmitters that replace the cables normally used to transmit signals from sensors in the brain.  The trials allowed men with spinal cord injuries to type and click on a tablet just thinking about the action

A participant in the BrainGate clinical study uses wireless transmitters that replace the cables normally used to transmit signals from sensors in the brain. The trials allowed men with spinal cord injuries to type and click on a tablet just thinking about the action

The innovation is similar to the development of BCI Elon Musk’s Neuralink, which is also a wireless device implanted in the brain.

However, Musk’s technology is not visible like BrainGate, but has only been tested in monkeys and pigs – BrainGate is the first to conduct successful human trials.

John Simeral, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown University, a member of the BrainGate research consortium and the lead author of the study, said, “ We have shown that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the wired systems that were the gold standard in BCI performance for years. ‘

“The signals are recorded and transmitted with comparable fidelity, which means that we can use the same decoding algorithms as with wired equipment.

The redesigned equipment is just three inches in diameter and connects to an electrode array in the brain's motor cortex through the same port used by wired systems.

The redesigned equipment is just three inches in diameter and connects to an electrode array in the brain's motor cortex through the same port used by wired systems.

The redesigned equipment is just three inches in diameter and connects to an electrode array in the brain’s motor cortex through the same port used by wired systems.

The innovation is similar to the development of BCI Elon Musk's Neuralink (pictured), which is also a wireless device implanted in the brain.  However, Musk's technology is not visible like BrainGate, it has only been tested in monkeys and pigs

The innovation is similar to the development of BCI Elon Musk's Neuralink (pictured), which is also a wireless device implanted in the brain.  However, Musk's technology is not visible like BrainGate, it has only been tested in monkeys and pigs

The innovation is similar to the development of BCI Elon Musk’s Neuralink (pictured), which is also a wireless device implanted in the brain. However, Musk’s technology is not visible like BrainGate, but has only been tested in monkeys and pigs

“The only difference is that people no longer need to be physically attached to our equipment, which opens up new possibilities for using the system.”

Subjects included a 35-year-old man and a 63-year-old man who are both paralyzed by spinal cord injury.

Each was able to use the BCI at home, compared to previous work to be done in a lab.

Unloaded by cables, the participants were able to use the BCI continuously for up to 24 hours, providing the researchers with long-lasting data, including during sleep.

Leigh Hochberg, an engineering professor at Brown, a researcher at Brown’s Carney Institute for Brain Science and leader of the BrainGate clinical trial, said, “We want to understand how neural signals evolve over time.”

‘With this system, we can view brain activity at home for long periods of time in a way that was almost impossible before.

Unloaded by cables, the participants were able to use the BCI continuously for up to 24 hours, providing the researchers with long-lasting data even while the participants slept.  Shown is an earlier version of the BCI with a long cable

Unloaded by cables, the participants were able to use the BCI continuously for up to 24 hours, providing the researchers with long-lasting data even while the participants slept.  Shown is an earlier version of the BCI with a long cable

Unloaded by cables, the participants were able to use the BCI continuously for up to 24 hours, providing the researchers with long-lasting data even while the participants slept. Shown is an earlier version of the BCI with a long cable

“This will help us to design decryption algorithms that provide a seamless, intuitive and reliable recovery of communication and mobility for people with paralysis.”

The latest study builds on the researcher’s first BrainGate trials that began in 2012, but used a wired system to enable participants to manipulate prostheses by thinking of a specific movement.

That work was followed by a steady stream of refinements to the system, as well as new clinical breakthroughs that allowed people to type on computers, use tablet apps, and even move their own paralyzed limbs.

Study co-author Sharlene Flesher, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford and now a hardware engineer at Apple, said, “ The evolution of intracortical BCIs from using a wireline to using a miniature wireless transmitter is an important step towards functional use. . of fully implanted, powerful neural interfaces, ‘

As the field moves towards reducing transmitted bandwidth while maintaining resource control accuracy, this study may be one of the few that captures the full width of cortical signals for extended periods of time, including during practical BCI- use.’