What if others could read your mind?

08-04-2016

Brain-computer interface technology has been advancing rapidly and will continue to do so as our knowledge of how the brain works increases. Could this transform our understanding of life as we know it? A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device. This technology can be used to restore motor and sensory capacities which may have been lost through trauma, disease or congenital conditions. For example, combined with limb-replacement technology, BCI may allow patients not only to move prosthetic limbs, but also to feel the sensation of touch. The technology can either be implanted (invasive) or used externally (non-invasive). Invasive BCIs, including neuroprosthetics and brain implants, are devices which connect directly to the brain and are placed on its surface or attached to the cortex. A key application area for contemporary brain implant research is the development of biomedical prostheses to circumvent areas of the brain that have become dysfunctional after a stroke or other trauma. With deep brain stimulation, a 'brain pacemaker' sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain for the treatment of disorders such as Parkinson's disease, dystonia and major depression. Non-invasive BCIs consist of a range of technological devices which provide a similar interface between the brain and other machines without the need for surgery. There are several technologies capable of measuring and recording brain activity, although the signal quality may be weaker than is possible with implanted devices. Nonetheless, non-invasive BCIs have been used effectively, for example to control prosthetic hands.

Brain-computer interface technology has been advancing rapidly and will continue to do so as our knowledge of how the brain works increases. Could this transform our understanding of life as we know it? A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device. This technology can be used to restore motor and sensory capacities which may have been lost through trauma, disease or congenital conditions. For example, combined with limb-replacement technology, BCI may allow patients not only to move prosthetic limbs, but also to feel the sensation of touch. The technology can either be implanted (invasive) or used externally (non-invasive). Invasive BCIs, including neuroprosthetics and brain implants, are devices which connect directly to the brain and are placed on its surface or attached to the cortex. A key application area for contemporary brain implant research is the development of biomedical prostheses to circumvent areas of the brain that have become dysfunctional after a stroke or other trauma. With deep brain stimulation, a 'brain pacemaker' sends electrical impulses to specific parts of the brain for the treatment of disorders such as Parkinson's disease, dystonia and major depression. Non-invasive BCIs consist of a range of technological devices which provide a similar interface between the brain and other machines without the need for surgery. There are several technologies capable of measuring and recording brain activity, although the signal quality may be weaker than is possible with implanted devices. Nonetheless, non-invasive BCIs have been used effectively, for example to control prosthetic hands.