In this week’s edition of the journal Nature my colleagues and I at Brown and Cyberkinetics present more results from the first human implanted with a multi-electrode array-based direct-brain-computer interface, and also my colleagues at Stanford present a report on experiments exploring the maximum bit rate possible with such direct interfaces. Nature has provided a series of interviews and animations on the topic free to the public here.
Neurons in a Dish: Scientists at the Potter Lab have found that blobs of neurons cultured in a dish spontaneously generate hierarchical structures of periodic activity with population-wide spatiotemporal structure demonstrating oscillations. Certain patterns persist for hours, implying that perhaps that such in vitro neural preparations could be used to store memories.
Nerve Stump Interface: Horch and Dhillon have found that stimulation by electrodes implanted into the peripheral nerve stumps of amputees allow amputees to feel graded, discrete touch sensations in the phantom hand, and recorded motor neurons in the nerve stump can be used to set grip force and position in an artificial arm.
Re-assigning a Nerve: Kuiken has pioneered a technique in which remaining peripheral nerves that would have sent fibers to stimulate muscles in and transmit sensory information from an amputated limb, can be surgically moved within the body to an intact muscle, such as the pectoralis major. A small patch of this muscle ends up serving as a biopotential amplifier for the nerve stump, such that gross EMG signals from the newly reinnervated muscle patch can be used as myoelectric signals. Furthermore, when the skin overlying the patch is touched, the amputee experiences it as if the absent limb were being touched,
The June edition of IEEE Transactions in Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering has some articles of interest including such titles as “Could cortical signals control intraspinal stimulators?” from the Mushahwar lab, “Cortically coupled computer vision for rapid image search” from the Sajda lab, “An oral tactile interface for blind navigation” from Tang and Beebe, “The Neurochip BCI: towards a neural prosthesis for upper limb function” from the Fetz lab, as well as recent reports from scientists at BCI2000. Also check out the articles by Leuthhardt et al, and Moran et al.
For a recent review of the field of neuroprosthetics, you can download presentations from the website of the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center of the United States’ Army.
Also check out the Neurotech Network “dedicated to the use of neurotechnology, the application of medical electronics to improve or restore function of the human nervous system,” directed by Jennifer French. Ms. French is an advocate for people with neurologic impairment and is a person I greatly admire.
My name is Mijail “Misha” Serruya, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to join the other MindHacks editors to share my passion for basic and clinical neuroscience.
I finished my combined MD/PhD training at Brown University, helped co-found Cyberkinetics, and am currently a House Officer in internal medicine in Providence, and expect to begin a residency in adult neurology at the University of Pennsylvania next year. You can learn more about my previous experience here and my future plans here.
Declaration of Conflict of Interest: I am shareholder of Cyberkinetics and I have been an employee of the company in the past.
I welcome you to email me questions about brain-computer interfaces, advocacy for people with neurologic and psychiatric disability, and clinical neurology, but I can’t promise a fast response time.