BrainGate Trial Proves High-Bandwidth, Fully-Wireless, 24-Hour Use of the Brain-Computer Interface

Offering the same performance as its wired equivalents, the tiny BrainGate system has proven its worth.

A team made up of university scientists and doctors have published a paper detailing the success of the BrainGate wireless brain-computer interface (BCI) system — offering high-bandwidth neural signaling without the need to tether the user with cabling.

"We’ve demonstrated that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the wired systems that have been the gold standard in BCI performance for years," claims Assistant Professor and study lead author John Simeral of the BrainGate project's latest results. "The signals are recorded and transmitted with appropriately similar fidelity, which means we can use the same decoding algorithms we used with wired equipment. The only difference is that people no longer need to be physically tethered to our equipment, which opens up new possibilities in terms of how the system can be used."

The BrainGate BCI combines an implanted electrode array with an external transmitter system measuring two inches on its largest side and weighing just over 1.5 ounces. Placed on top of the user's head, the transmitter picks up and amplifies the signal from the electrode array and sends it to a nearby receiver — allowing the user to control computing devices by thought alone.

The latest trial took place on two participants, a 35-year-old man and a 63-year-old man who had both been paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, and proved that the BrainGate system was comfortable and stable enough for 24-hour use — including measuring brain activity while sleeping — while offering typing and cursor interaction equal to that of wired equivalents.

Earlier versions of the BrainGate system relied on cable tethers for operation. (📹: BrainGate)

"We want to understand how neural signals evolve over time," explains Professor Leigh Hochberg, who led the trial. "With this system, we're able to look at brain activity, at home, over long periods in a way that was nearly impossible before. This will help us to design decoding algorithms that provide for the seamless, intuitive, reliable restoration of communication and mobility for people with paralysis."

The study has been published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering under open-access terms. Additional details on the BrainGate technology can be found on the official website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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