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Brain-Computer Interface Begins New Clinical Trial

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BrainGate technology illustration

BrainGate technology is designed to read brain signals associated with controlling movement, which a computer could translate into instructions for moving a computer cursor or controlling assistive devices.

Credit: Brown Institute for Brain Science

The second clinical trial of the BrainGate Neural Interface System developed at Brown University is about to start at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. BrainGate is based on research and technology developed by professor John Donoghue, director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science. "The goal of our research is to harness the brain signals that ordinarily accompany movement and to translate those signals into actions on a computer, like moving a cursor on the screen, or the movement of a robotic or prosthetic limb," says fellow Brown professor and MGH neurologist Leigh Hochberg, who is leading the research with Donoghue.

In an earlier clinical trial it was demonstrated that a computer can decode the neural signals associated with the intent to move a limb in real time and use them to operate external devices. The BrainGate interface involves a sensor implanted on a section of a study participant's motor cortex, and in earlier research sessions the computer was linked to the sensor via a pedestal on the subject's head. "We learned an incredible amount with the assistance of the first participants in the BrainGate trial, not only about how the motor cortex continues to work after paralyzing illness or injury, but also about how to harness these powerful intracortical signals for controlling computers and other assistive devices," Hochberg says. The hardware and software that decodes brain signals used to control assistive devices will be refined in the BrainGate2 trials.

BrainGate2 is part of a larger research initiative to develop point-and-click capabilities on a computer screen, control a prosthetic limb or a robotic arm, control functional electrical stimulation of nerves severed from the brain due to paralysis, and further expand the neuroscience behind the field of intracortical neurotechnology.

From Brown University
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