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Fully Implanted Brain-Computer Interface Shows Promise in ALS

Signals sent to hand emerge as typed message on a tablet computer, researchers report

nervous system

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 16, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A fully implanted brain-computer interface has enabled a paralyzed woman with late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to communicate through brain signaling, according to a report published online Nov. 12 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research was published to coincide with the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held from Nov. 12 to 16 in San Diego.

In October 2015, researchers implanted four subdural electrodes placed over the motor cortex and a transmitter placed subcutaneously in the left side of the thorax. The goal: to pick up still-functioning nerve activity, generated whenever the patient tries to move her hand.

These signals are then transferred, via sensors, to an amplifier and transmitter device. This then wirelessly transmits the hand-related nerve activity to a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet device. With attempt at hand movement, a signal reaches the tablet where it's translated into a "brain-click" and, ultimately, a typing instruction.

"We hope the system proves to work in more than this first participant," study author Nick Ramsey, Ph.D., a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, told HealthDay. Ramsey views the effort as "a first step in a series of improvements in device capabilities that will eventually also give less severely paralyzed people back some of their lost motor abilities, such as speech or mobility problems following stroke."

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