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.
JUDY WOODRUFF: For decades, researchers have worked to create a better and more direct connection between a human brain and a computer to improve the lives of people who are paralyzed or have severe limb weakness from diseases like ALS. Those advances have been notable, but now the work is yielding groundbreaking results. CAT WISE: Dennis Degray is a 64-year-old quadriplegic who is writing a sentence on the computer screen in front of him using only his brain. A former volunteer firefighter, Degray had a bad fall 10 years ago which severed his spinal cord. As part of an early stage clinical research study led by Stanford University, Degray and two other volunteer participants with ALS had small sensors implanted in their brains in an area called the motor cortex, which controls movement.
From time to time, the Singularity Hub editorial team unearths a gem from the archives and wants to share it all over again. It's usually a piece that was popular back then and we think is still relevant now. This is one of those articles. It was originally published October 25th, 2015. We hope you enjoy it!
Almost two years ago, Dennis Degray sent an unusual text message to his friend. "You are holding in your hand the very first text message ever sent from the neurons of one mind to the mobile device of another," he recalls it read. Degray, 66, has been paralysed from the collarbones down since an unlucky fall over a decade ago. He was able to send the message because in 2016 he had two tiny squares of silicon with protruding metal electrodes surgically implanted in his motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement. By imagining moving a joystick with his hand, he is able to move a cursor to select letters on a screen.