TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Using Brain Waves to Operate Computer

Using Brain Waves to Operate Computer

Lisa Minter (
Sat, 23 Apr 2005 13:06:14 -0500

By Matthew Nagel, BBC Health
Republished from BBC Health

A paralysed man in the US has become the first person to benefit from
a brain chip that reads his mind. Matthew Nagle, 25, was left
paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair after a
knife attack in 2001.

The pioneering surgery at New England Sinai Hospital, Massachusetts,
last summer means he can now control everyday objects by thought

The brain chip reads his mind and sends the thoughts to a computer to

Mind over matter

He can think his TV on and off, change channels and alter the volume
thanks to the technology and software linked to devices in his home.

Scientists have been working for some time to devise a way to enable
paralysed people to control devices with the brain.

Studies have shown that monkeys can control a computer with electrodes
implanted into their monkey brains.

Mr. Nagle's device, called BrainGate, consists of nearly 100 hair-thin
electrodes implanted a millimetre deep into part of the motor cortex
of his brain that controls movement.

Wires feed the information from the electrodes into a computer which
analyses the brain signals.

The signals are interpreted and translated into cursor movements,
offering the user an alternative way to control devices such as a
computer with thought.

Motor control

Professor John Donoghue, an expert on neuroscience at Brown
University, Rhode Island, is the scientist behind the device produced
by Cyberkinetics.

He said: "The computer screen is basically a TV remote control panel,
and in order to indicate a selection he merely has to pass the cursor
over an icon, and that's equivalent to a click when he goes over that

Mr. Nagle has also been able to use thought to move a prosthetic hand
and robotic arm to grab sweets from one person's hand and place them
into another.

Professor Donoghue hopes that ultimately implants such as this will
allow people with paralysis to regain the use of their limbs.

The long term aim is to design a package the size of a mobile phone
that will run on batteries, and to electrically stimulate the
patient's own muscles. This will be difficult.

The simple movements we took for granted involved complex electrical
signals which would be hard to replicate, Dr. Richard Apps, a
neurophysiologist from Bristol University, UK, told BBC News.

He said there were millions of neurones in the brain involved with
movement. The brain chip taps into only a very small number of
these. But he said the work was extremely exciting.

"It's quite remarkable. They have taken research to the next stage to
have a clear benefit for a patient that otherwise would not be able to

"It seems that they have cracked the crucial step and arguably the
most challenging step to get hand movements.

"Just to be able to grasp an object is a major step forward."

He said it might be possible to hone this further to achieve finer
movements of the hand.

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at . Hundreds of new
articles daily.

*** FAIR USE NOTICE. This message contains copyrighted material the
use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright
owner. This Internet discussion group is making it available without
profit to group members who have expressed a prior interest in
receiving the included information in their efforts to advance the
understanding of literary, educational, political, and economic
issues, for non-profit research and educational purposes only. I
believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material
as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish
to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go
beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright
owner, in this instance, BBC News.

For more information go to:

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Lisa Minter: "How We Made Our Own Carnivore"
Go to Previous message: Ed: "Lingo (Primus Telecommunications) Horror Story"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page