Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh will soon begin trialing two different brain computer interface (BCI) devices on patients with spinal cord injury. The hope is that these BCIs will allow patients to control external devices, such as computers and prostheses, bringing some level of independence to the severely paralyzed. One was developed at U of Pittsburgh and is a 10 x 10 electrode array that has been previously successfully tested on monkeys. The other seems to be an electrocorticography (ECoG) device from the University of Washington that has been featured on these pages before (see flashbacks below).
From the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center:
The projects build upon ongoing research conducted in epilepsy patients who had the interfaces temporarily placed on their brains and were able to move cursors and play computer games, as well as in monkeys that through interfaces guided a robotic arm to feed themselves marshmallows and turn a doorknob.
In one project, funded by an $800,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, a BCI based on electrocorticography (ECoG) will be placed on the motor cortex surface of a spinal cord injury patient’s brain for up to 29 days. The neural activity picked up by the BCI will be translated through a computer processor, allowing the patient to learn to control computer cursors, virtual hands, computer games and assistive devices such as a prosthetic hand or a wheelchair.
The second project, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for up to $6 million over three years, is part of a program led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md. It will further develop technology tested in monkeys by Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology, Pitt School of Medicine, and also a senior investigator on both projects.
It uses an interface that is a tiny, 10-by-10 array of electrodes that is implanted on the surface of the brain to read activity from individual neurons. Those signals will be processed and relayed to maneuver a sophisticated prosthetic arm.
In the study, which is expected to begin by late 2011, participants will get two separate electrodes. In future research efforts, the technology may be enhanced with an innovative telemetry system that would allow wireless control of a prosthetic arm, as well as a sensory component.
More from UPMC: New Pitt Projects Will Test Brain Computer Interfaces for People with Spinal Cord Injury…
Flashbacks: Electrocorticography to Link Brains of Paralyzed With Computers, Wheelchairs, Etc ; Neural Interfaces May Serve as Brain Rehab Devices; Teenager Plays Space Invaders with His Mind; Brain-controlled ‘robo-arm’