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The brain-computer interface is also wireless!

 I believe you will find that many electronic products around you are "wireless", such as wireless mice, wireless headphones, wireless projectors, and so on. It seems that all electronic devices are moving in the direction of "wireless", of course, as the world's most advanced "brain-computer interface" is no exception.


In recent years, the popularity of BrainComputer Interface (BCI) technology has remained high. This technology has brought about a breakthrough change, making "mind control" a reality-users only need to think about it. You can control the computer to complete the tasks you want, such as typing on the computer screen, or control the robotic arm to complete various actions.

 

However, for a long time, the brain-computer interface has basically adopted a wired form, that is, many data cables are required to connect the sensor array in the brain to the computer, and the computer receives signals and drives external devices to implement various operations.


Recently, BrainGate company demonstrated a new "wireless brain-computer interface" (BWD) system, which consists of two parts, one is an electrode array located in the cerebral cortex, and the other is a wireless transmitter located outside the body. The wireless transmitter is fixed on the user's head and is connected to the electrode array in the motor cortex of the brain. Among them, the wireless transmitter is a small device with a size of 5 cm and a weight of 43 grams, which replaces the traditional brain-computer interface for transmitting signals from sensors inside the brain.


This "wireless brain-computer interface" system has two major features. First, it does not have the cumbersome cable constraints of traditional brain-computer interfaces; second, it can transmit brain signals with "full broadband fidelity" and "single neuron resolution". . In other words, it can achieve high-bandwidth, high-precision wireless signal transmission.


The results of a study published by BrainGate researchers in IEEE Transactionson Biomedical Engineering showed that two paralyzed subjects used BWD to perform click operations and codewords on a tablet computer. The accuracy of their clicks was very close to the speed of the codewords, which showed The fidelity of the transmission signal of this wireless brain-computer interface system is almost the same as that of the wired system.

 

"We have proved through experiments that, in terms of function, the wireless system we developed is very close to the wired system." said John Simeral, an assistant professor of engineering at Brown University and a member of the BrainGate Research Alliance. "The signal recording and transmission fidelity of the two are very similar, which means that the decoding algorithm of the wired device can also be used by us. And the advantage of our device is that the user will not be bound by the cable, which can Said to have created a whole new experience."


Prior to this, some media reported that they were not optimistic about wireless brain-computer interface devices because of their low bandwidth and poor actual performance and experience. In this regard, BrainGate researchers said that the wireless brain-computer interface they developed contains a completely invasive intracortical system, which is the first device capable of transmitting the full spectrum signal recorded by the intracortical sensor. This high-bandwidth wireless signal makes basic human neuroscience and clinical research possible, which is difficult to achieve with wired brain-computer interfaces. This (wireless brain-computer interface) research has taken a crucial step on the road of future brain-computer interface development.


The researchers also pointed out that “compared to the traditional brain-computer interface test environment, which is carried out in the laboratory, our experiment can be carried out at home.” The two above-mentioned subjects who were paralyzed due to spinal cord injury were 35 years old. And 63 years old, without any cable constraints, they can use wireless brain-computer interface devices 24 hours a day (continuously). Obviously, this provides researchers with a longer and more experimental data basis, including brain signal data of the experimenter at rest.


Leigh Hochberg, an engineering professor at Brown University, a researcher at the Carney Institute for Brain Science at Brown University, and the head of the BrainGate clinical trial, said: "With this wireless brain-computer interface system, we can do it in a way that was almost impossible before. -Observe the brain activity of the experimenter at home for a long time. For example, to understand how neural signals evolve over time. This will help us design and optimize the decoding algorithm, providing seamless, intuitive and reliable for paralyzed patients Communications and mobile recovery.



With low power consumption and long standby time, wireless brain-computer interface devices are expected to replace wired in the future

This wireless brain-computer interface system, called BWD, was first developed by Brown in the ArtoNurmikko laboratory of Brown School of Engineering professor. It can transmit high-fidelity signals with minimal power consumption. Test data showed that the two devices were turned on at the same time to record neural signals from 200 electrodes at a rate of 48 megabits per second, and the battery life exceeded 36 hours.


"Although BWD has been used in the field of basic neuroscience research for several years, additional tests and regulatory approvals are required before the system can be used in the trial version of BrainGate. Real human testing is a particularly critical link in the development of brain-computer interface technology. , I am honored to be a member of the team that promotes the use of brain-computer interfaces for humans. More importantly, the wireless technology described in our paper has helped us discover the next generation of neurotechnology (such as a fully implanted brain high-density wireless electronic interface) The key to this." Nurmikko said.

 

As early as 2012, the BrainGate research team achieved important research results, and experimenters were able to operate multi-dimensional robotic prostheses through a brain-computer interface. Since then, the research team has continued to improve and optimize the brain-computer interface system so that the experimenter can do more things, such as using codewords, using various APPs, and so on.


"The intracortical brain-computer interface is evolving from wired cables to the use of miniature wireless transmitters. This study may be one of the few that can capture the full range of cortical signals in a long period of time (including during the actual use of the brain-computer interface). Research one." Sharlene Flesher, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and a current hardware engineer at Apple, pointed out.


In addition, BrainGate researchers also stated that “this new wireless technology has paid off in unexpected ways.” Because the experimenter was able to use this wireless device at home without the need for technicians to maintain wired connections, BrainGate The team was able to continue their research work during the COVID-19 pandemic.


"For example, in March 2020, we could not visit the tester’s home in person at that time, but by training the nursing staff how to establish a wireless connection, the tester was able to use the brain-computer interface without the presence of our team’s technical members. Therefore, , We can not only continue to carry out our research, but also maintain the full bandwidth and fidelity that we have previously (wired brain-computer interface)." Hochberg pointed out.


Simeral said, "At present, many companies have entered the field of brain-computer interfaces. Some companies have also demonstrated low-bandwidth wireless systems that can be used in human trials, including some fully implanted systems. We are very happy to be able to use high-bandwidth wireless The system improves scientific and clinical capabilities for future systems."

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