A new brain-computer interface (BCI) can turn'mental handwriting' – the act of imagining yourself wiring on a piece of paper – into text on a screen in real time. The breakthrough system, developed by US researchers, uses a computer to decode attempted handwriting movements from signals in the brain. The signals are detected by tiny square electrode arrays roughly the size of a baby aspirin pill, which have been inserted into the brain. Researchers say the system could allow people with paralysis who don't have use of their hands or fingers to rapidly type messages. In a clinical trial, a paralysed man used the BCI to write text on a computer screen just by thinking about the movements involved in handwriting.
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.
John Scalzi's science fiction novel Lock In predicts a near future where people with complete body paralysis can live meaningful, authentic lives thanks to (fictional) advances in brain-computer interfaces. A new study by researchers at Stanford University might be the first step towards such a reality. Using brain-computer interfaces (BCI) to help people with paralysis communicate isn't completely new. But getting people using it to have a complex conversation is. This study's participants were able to output words at a much faster, more accurate rate than ever recorded thanks to the advanced technique.
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.
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.