Brain-Computer Interface Enables People With Paralysis to Control Tablet Devices
Tablets and other mobile computing devices are part of everyday life, but using them can be difficult for people with paralysis. New research from the BrainGate * consortium shows that a brain-computer interface (BCI) can be operated by an off-the-shelf tablet device.
In a study published November 21 in PLOS ONE, three clinical trial participants with tetraplegia, each of which was using the investigative BrainGate BCI that records the neural activity of a small sensor located in the motor cortex, were able to navigate through commonly used tablet programs , including email, chat, music-streaming and video-sharing apps. The participants are messaged with family, friends, members of the research team and their fellow participants. They surfed the web, checked the weather and shopped online. One participant, a musician, played a snippet of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" on a digital piano interface.
"For years, the BrainGate collaboration has been working to develop the neuroscience and neuroengineering know-how to enable people who have lost their motor skills. Jaimie Henderson, a senior author of the paper and a Stanford University neurosurgeon. "In this study, we've harnessed that know-how to restore people's ability to control the exact same everyday technology they were using before their onset of their illnesses. It was wonderful to see the participants express themselves or just want a song they want to hear. "
The BrainGate BCI includes a baby aspirin-sized implant, which detects the movements of the brain. Those signals are then decoded and routed to external devices. BrainGate researchers and other groups have shown that the device can enable people to move their robotic arms or to regain control of their own limbs. The University of Carney Institute for Brain Science, The Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center (PVAMC), the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and the Stanford University.
Two of the participants in this latest study had a weakening or loss of their arms and legs due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive disease affecting the nerves in the brain and spine that control movement. The third participant was paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury. All were enrolled in a clinical trial.
For this study, neural signals from the BrainGate BCI were routed to a Bluetooth interface. The virtual mouse was then paired to an unmodified Google Nexus 9 tablet. The participants were asked to navigate within a range of commonly used apps, and move from app to app. The participants browsed through music selections on a streaming service, searched for videos on YouTube, scrolled through a news aggregator and composed emails and chat.
The study showed that participants were able to make up to 22 point-and-click selections per minute while using a variety of apps. In text apps, the participants were able to type up to 30 effective characters per minute using standard email and text interfaces.
The participants reported that finding the interface intuitive and fun to use, the study noted. One said, "It felt more natural than the times when I used a mouse." Another report reported having "more control over this than what I normally use."
The researchers were pleased to see how quickly the participants used the tablet to explore their hobbies and interests.
"It was great to see our participants, but the most gratifying and fun part of the study was that they used the apps that they liked for shopping, watching videos or just chatting with friends, "said author author. Paul Nuyujukian, a bioengineer at Stanford. "One of the participants told us that one of the things she really wanted to do was play music again. So key to playing a digital keyboard was fantastic. "
The fact that the tablet devices were completely unaltered and had all the preloaded accessibility software turned off, the researchers said.
"The assistive technologies are available today, while they're important and useful," said Krishna Shenoy, a senior author of the paper. and an electrical engineer and neuroscientist at Stanford University and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. "That's largely because of the limited input signals that are available. With the richness of the input, we were able to use the BrainGate system right out of the box. "
The researchers say that the study also has a potential for neurological deficits and their healthcare providers.
Jose Albites Sanabria, who graduated from Brown University, has been a graduate student in the field of biomedical engineering. "That would not only provide increased interaction with their family and friends, but could provide a conduit for more thoroughly describing ongoing health issues with caregivers."
As a neuroscientist and practicing critical care neurologist, senior author Leigh Hochberg of Brown University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Providence VA Medical Center are experiencing tremendous potential for the restorative capabilities of the BCIs exemplified in this study.
"When I see somebody in the neuro-intensive care unit who has had an acute stroke and has lost the ability to move or communicate, I'm sorry to have this happen, but we Hochberg said, "Can we use this technology before you can use it?" "And we're getting closer to being able to tell someone who is being diagnosed with ALS, even though we can not find the way to communicate."
Other authors on the paper were Jad Saab, Chethan Pandarinath, Beata Jarosiewicz, Christine Blabe, Brian Franco, Stephen Mernoff, Emad Eskandar and John Simeral.
%% https: //www.youtube.com/embed/O6Qw3EDBPhg %%