Researchers have been using brain-computer interfaces to interact with patients suffering from locked-in syndrome for a few years now. But a new system from the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Switzerland may finally allow even the most immobile patients communicate with the outside world. There are degrees to locked-in syndrome. The lesser variety only allows those suffering from it to raise or lower their eyes and blink, they're fully paralyzed otherwise. So rather than rely on optical keyboards as previous studies have, the Wyss team developed a means of reading patient's minds directly by measuring the flow of oxygenated blood flowing through their brains.
In a closed-loop brain-computer interface (BCI), adaptive decoders are used to learn parameters suited to decoding the user's neural response. Feedback to the user provides information which permits the neural tuning to also adapt. We present an approach to model this process of co-adaptation between the encoding model of the neural signal and the decoding algorithm as a multi-agent formulation of the linear quadratic Gaussian (LQG) control problem. In simulation we characterize how decoding performance improves as the neural encoding and adaptive decoder optimize, qualitatively resembling experimentally demonstrated closed-loop improvement. We then propose a novel, modified decoder update rule which is aware of the fact that the encoder is also changing and show it can improve simulated co-adaptation dynamics.
For the first 54 years of his life, Dennis DeGray was an active guy. In 2007 he was living in Pacific Grove, Calif., not far from the ocean and working at a beachside restaurant. Then, while taking out the trash one rainy night, he slipped, fell, and hit his chin on the pavement, snapping his neck between the second and third vertebrae. DeGray was instantly rendered, as he puts it, "completely nonfunctional from the collarbone south." He's since depended on caregivers to feed, clothe, and clean him and meet most any other need.
There is much excitement surrounding the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCI). Take, for example, recent headline-grabbing announcements from Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk, which has the long-term goal of helping to "secure humanity's future as a civilization relative to AI." Then, there is Facebook's development of wearable technology that hopes to achieve "hands-free communication without saying a word." While there are no guarantees that telepathy will ever exist, equally, there is no guarantee that it will not. Meanwhile, companies and organizations are making tremendous advancements and we can expect more effective and widespread use of BCIs as they become more sophisticated.