Teenager Plays Mind-Controlled Video Game

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I previously reported on BrainGate-the neural interface that connected a paraplegic’s brain to a computer for cursor control.  Researchers at Wash U have reported a sytem that uses surface electrodes to provide similar function. 

“With approval of the patient and his parents and the Washington University School of Medicine Institutional Review Board, Leuthardt and Moran connected the patient to a sophisticated computer running a special program known as BCI2000 (developed by their collaborator Gerwin Schalk at the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health in Albany) which involves a video game that is linked to the ECoG grid. They then asked the boy to do various motor and speech tasks, moving his hands various ways, talking, and imagining. The team could see from the data which parts of the brain and what brain signals correlate to these movements. They then asked the boy to play a simple, two-dimensional Space Invaders game by actually moving his tongue and hand. He was then asked to imagine the same movements, but not to actually perform them with his hands or tongue. When he saw the cursor in the video game, he then controlled it with his brain.”

The boy, a 14-year-old who suffers from epilepsy, is the first teenager to play a two-dimensional video game, Space Invaders, using only the signals from his brain to make movements.   Getting subjects to move objects using only their brains has implications toward someday building biomedical devices that can control artificial limbs, for instance, enabling the disabled to move a prosthetic arm or leg by thinking about it.

I also reported on the monkey with a direct link info here.

In the big picture this is another variation of alternative control systems.  I often speak of “gesture controled surgery” where gestures are converted by video to task controls for surgery.  This another way to potentially control surgical taks without traditional hands or instruments. 

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