Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Thought Control

Not control ofthoughts, but by them. From the ABC :
Four volunteers have managed to control a video game using thought alone, according to US researchers.

With some electrodes placed on the surface of their brains, the volunteers simply had to think the word "move" to play the simple video game.

Eric Leuthardt, a neurosurgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St Louis who worked on the study, said: "We are using pure imagination. These people are not moving their limbs."

The findings add to work being done at several centres and are aimed at finding ways to help people control computers or machines using brain power alone.

Potentially, people paralysed by disease or accidents could use such devices to work, read, write and even move around.

Dr Leuthardt says the study tested four patients with epilepsy.

"These electrodes are placed on peoples' brains on a routine basis for seizure localization," Dr Leuthardt said.

The patients have their skulls opened and the electrodes placed on the surface of the brain to find out where their seizures are originating, so the connections in that area can be cut in the hope of a cure.

"We piggy-backed our study on that," Dr Leuthardt said.
Writing in Monday's issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering, Dr Leuthardt and Daniel Moran, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St Louis, said the patients learned in minutes how to control a computer cursor.

"It took six minutes of training and they all achieved control in less than 24 minutes," Dr Leuthardt said.

"After a brief training session, the patients could play the game by using signals that come off the surface of the brain," Professor Moran said.

"They achieved between 74 and 100 per cent accuracy, with one patient hitting 33 out of 33 targets correctly in a row."
"You can't keep wires directly from the brain to the outside world indefinitely because of the increased risk of infection," Dr Leuthardt said. "We have to create a wireless system."

Dr Leuthardt and Professor Moran centred about 32 electrodes over the sensory motor cortex of the brain and a region called Broca's area, which is associated with speech.

The pair did their work on a small amount of money - about $20,000 for the whole study, they said.

"We really built this from matchsticks and paperclips," Professor Moran said.

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