Friday, July 6, 2012

how long until the bionic man?

I had this press release sent to me today.   Interesting stuff that would once have been science fiction.

Controlling a robot with your mind

Controlling a toy robot with your mind. Brain researcher, Nick Ramsey, of the UMC Utrecht, has managed to get study subjects to do just that. It forms the basis of a brain-computer interface that will allow paralyzed people to control a computer.  

In the study, subjects had to lie still in a powerful, 7T MRI scanner, while the computer screen showed them what a toy robot’s camera could ‘see’. The subjects did not move, but had to keep their eyes focused on a single point. As the MRI scanner measured the brain activity, the computer learnt when the subjects were thinking left, right or forwards.
In this way, Ramsey and other UMC Utrecht colleagues have enabled four subjects to control a robot. The robot successfully completed a course of about nine meters with four stops along the way, while the ‘driver’ was lying elsewhere in an MRI scanner.  
“All four study subjects were able to control the robot very quickly”, explains Ramsey. “They all felt in control of the robot. This means that this type of brain-computer interface is very easy to master. Training is barely needed.”  
Ramsey is working on a brain-computer interface that will allow paralyzed people to control a computer. To achieve this, he hopes to implant electrodes into these patients’ brains to measure brain activity. This is necessary to ensure a good signal, but it also involves major surgery. Ramsey believes that controlling the robot through the MRI scanner will be a first step for these patients. If the paralyzed people manage to control the robot, the investigators and doctors may then decide to implant electrodes in their brains. Ramsey hopes to be able to implant electrodes for the first time in paralyzed patients for a simpler system this fall. Controlling a robot using electrodes is expected to be possible in a few years.    
Controlling the robot is part of Patrik Andersson’s PhD research. He was awarded his PhD on 4 July at the UMC Utrecht. His supervisors are Prof. Nick Ramsey, Prof. Max Viergever and Dr Josien Pluim. 


here said...

Ramsey considers that managing the software through the MRI reader will be a first phase for these sufferers. If the disabled individuals handle to management the software, the researchers and physicians may then choose to embed electrodes in their heads. Ramsey wishes to be able to embed electrodes for at the first try in disabled sufferers for a easier program this drop. Controlling a software using electrodes is predicted to be possible in a few decades.

Christopher Blum said...

Awesome stuff, and the applications are endless. Not only can things like this help disabled vets in the future, it might be able to stop so many getting injured in the first place. I hope everybody publicizes the hell out of this one...

Khaled Allen said...

I know of examples in which rats or insects have been controlled by implanted computer chips, allowing them to be driven by a computer operator. I wonder what could happen if you combined these two technologies.

keith said...

awesome post,the real life applications for the disabled will be endless and will be a boon for them