Perspectives of BCI by 2006

Today I read another article: “Brain-machine interfaces: past, present and future” by Mikhail A. Lebedev and Miguel A.L. Nicolelis.

They analysed Brain Machine Interfaces (BMIs) through a study of past research and analysis of experimental tests, both on human subjects and on monkeys or rats. And they highlight some obstacles that need to be cleared before BMIs can achieve the potential it has to improve the quality of life of many, especially, in the use of prosthetics.

They classified BMIs as Invasive and Non-invasive. The latter is supported by recordings of EEG from the surface of the head without needing brain surgery, and it provides a solution for paralysed people to communicate. However, neural signals have a limited bandwidth.

Within Invasive BMIs, which implants intra-cranial electrodes with higher quality neural signals recording, there are Single Recording Site and Multiple Recording Sites methods. Both these approaches can then be applied to small samples, local field potential (LFPs) or large ensembles.

Their conclusion suggested that in the upcoming 10—20 years, development of neuroprosthetics would allow for wireless transmission of multiple streams of electrical signals, to a BMI capable of decoding spatial and temporal characteristics of movements in addition to cognitive characteristics of intended actions.

The goal would be for this BMI to control an actuator with multiple degrees of freedom that could generate multiple streams of sensory feedback signals to cortical and/or somatosensory areas of the brain.

My conclusion is that after 10 years, we have seen a lot of improvement in this field. For example, in a recent article on the New Scientist website, entitled “Bionic eye will send images direct to the brain to restore sight”, Arthur Lowery, from Monash University in Clayton, Victoria, is working on restoring sight to blind volunteers with a bionic eye capable of providing around 500 pixels image. Read more here.

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