Researchers have developed a new interface that allows people with paralysis to communicate faster than ever through brain-controlled typing. The system uses tiny electrode implants, each roughly the size of a baby aspirin, to move an on-screen cursor when a person imagines their own hand movements. According to the Stanford-led team, the system marks a'major milestone' in efforts to improve life for those with severe limb weakness and paralysis, including people with ALS and spinal cord injuries. Researchers have developed a new interface that allows people with paralysis to communicate faster than ever through brain-controlled typing. In the new study, the Stanford-led team used an intracortical brain-computer interface called the BrainGate Neural Interface System.
For the first time, researchers have deciphered the brain activity associated with trying to write letters by hand. Working with a participant with paralysis who has sensors implanted in his brain, the team used an algorithm to identify letters as he attempted to write them. Then, the system displayed the text on a screen -- in real time. The innovation could, with further development, let people with paralysis rapidly type without using their hands, says study coauthor Krishna Shenoy, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Stanford University who jointly supervised the work with Jaimie Henderson, a Stanford neurosurgeon. By attempting handwriting, the study participant typed 90 characters per minute -- more than double the previous record for typing with such a "brain-computer interface," Shenoy and his colleagues report in the journal Nature on May 12, 2021.
Stanford University researchers are enrolling participants in a pioneering study investigating the feasibility of allowing people with paralysis to use a technology that interfaces directly with the brain to control computer cursors, robotic arms and other assistive devices. Those eligible to enroll in the trial include people with weakness of all four limbs resulting from cervical spinal cord injury, brainstem stroke, muscular dystrophy, or motor neuron disease, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease). The pilot clinical trial, known as BrainGate2,* is based on technology developed at Brown University and is led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brown and the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The researchers have now invited the Stanford team to establish the only trial site outside of New England. Under development since 2002, BrainGate is a combination of hardware and software that directly senses electrical signals in the brain that control movement.
The combination of mental effort and state-of-the-art technology have allowed a man with immobilized limbs to communicate by text at speeds rivaling those achieved by his able-bodied peers texting on a smartphone. Stanford University investigators have coupled artificial-intelligence software with a device, called a brain-computer interface, implanted in the brain of a man with full-body paralysis. The software was able to decode information from the BCI to quickly convert the man's thoughts about handwriting into text on a computer screen. The man was able to write using this approach more than twice as quickly as he could using a previous method developed by the Stanford researchers, who reported those findings in 2017 in the journal eLife. The new findings, published online May 12 in Nature, could spur further advances benefiting hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions globally, who've lost the use of their upper limbs or their ability to speak due to spinal-cord injuries, strokes or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, said Jaimie Henderson, MD, professor of neurosurgery.
For the first time ever, neuroscientists have translated the cognitive signals associated with handwriting into text, and in real time. The new technique is more than twice as fast than the previous method, allowing a paralyzed man to text at a rate of 90 characters per minute. Researchers with the BrainGate collaboration have developed a system that could eventually "allow people with severe speech and motor impairments to communicate by text, email, or other forms of writing," according to Jaimie Henderson, co-director of the Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory at Stanford University and a co-author of the new Nature study. Brain signals induced by thoughts associated with handwriting were translated into text in real time, allowing a paralyzed man to text at a rate of 16 words per minute. The system uses brain implants and a machine learning algorithm to decode brain signals associated with handwriting. The BrainGate consortium has made key contributions to the development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) over the years, including a sophisticated brain-controlled robotic arm that was showcased in 2012 and a newly announced high-bandwidth wireless BCI for humans.