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Brain-controlled Cursor (Image 1)

Research harnessing brain signals to control keyboards, robots or prosthetic devices

Image shows brain activity during first trial using a brain-controlled cursor, where a subject was able to hit a target just under half the time. The trial was part of research at the University of Washington (UW) on harnessing brain signals to control keyboards, robots or prosthetic devices.

Hooking a human brain up to a computer, researchers looked at signals on the brain's surface, while using imagined movements to control a cursor. The results showed that watching a cursor respond to one's thoughts prompts brain signals to become stronger than those generated in day-to-day life.

"Bodybuilders get muscles that are larger than normal by lifting weights," said Kai Miller, lead author of the published study and a UW doctoral student in physics, neuroscience and medicine. "We get brain activity that's larger than normal by interacting with brain-computer interfaces. By using these interfaces, patients create super-active populations of brain cells."

The finding holds promise for rehabilitating patients after stroke or other neurological damage, and suggests that a human brain could quickly become adept at manipulating an external device such as a computer interface or a prosthetic limb. To learn more, see UW news story "Brain-controlled cursor doubles as a neural workout." [Research funded in part by the National Science Foundation.] (Date of Image: 2009). [Image 1 of 2 related images. See Image 2.]

Credit: Kai Miller, University of Washington

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