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Scientists Connect Human Brain to Computer For First Time Ever

Author: NeuroGym Team | 2021

For the first time, a brain-computer connection has been established wirelessly. It’s a reason for celebration!

Think about it for a moment: How would your life change if you were to become paralyzed today?

It could limit your social activities, force you to quit your job, or leave you bedridden, to name but a few possibilities. Maybe you are paralyzed yourself or know someone who has paralysis and understand the challenges this brings.

Individuals with communication and mobility challenges may soon have a greater level of independence thanks to the latest scientific developments.

The Impact of Paralysis

An astounding 5.4 million Americans have some form of paralysis!

It equates to about 1 in 50 people with a spinal cord injury—that’s quite a high number. In all likelihood, most of us know more than 50 people, so someone in your social circle might land in a position where their abilities change.

How Paralysis Happens

When a person has paralysis, they have involuntary muscle movements or difficulty controlling their muscles. It can cause jerking, loss of movement, tremors, and weak or stiff muscles.

Individuals living with paralysis have some kind of damage to their nervous system. The nerves running through the spinal cord and into the different parts of the body do not function as they should, so paralysis is usually associated with a spinal cord injury.

Paralysis can be temporary, like when a person has a small stroke or gets an epidural before surgery. Permanent paralysis is a lifelong condition and is associated with spinal cord injuries like a broken neck in a car accident.

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Challenges to Overcome

For most people, paralysis means someone can’t walk, and although this could be true, there are many other challenges they face. Pressure sores, infection, blood clots, and weak muscles are other issues associated with restricted mobility. If paralysis affects the upper body, then completing daily tasks becomes even more problematic.

Depending on the extent of the spinal cord injury, a person could have vocal cord problems that prevent them from speaking. The placement of a tracheostomy tube to help with breathing also poses its own risks and challenges.

Despite these obstacles, many individuals with paralysis have no problems with their brains. They are intelligent and want to make use of the opportunities available to the greater community.

Brain Power

The human brain has great capabilities and controls everything a person does—even if they have paralysis. Learn more about the precise functioning of the mind at the Brain-A-Thon where we discuss how to use your brain better.

The Brain and Physical Functioning

The body consists of many complex systems and parts. All of these things together assist with your physical functioning so that you can go about your daily tasks.

Signals in the Brain

Neurons transmit messages from the brain and through the nervous system which consists of nerves running throughout your body. These nerves are protected within the spinal cord to ensure the messages move smoothly from the brain to the rest of the body.

When a person has paralysis, these neural signals do not move properly from the brain to the rest of the body. Something is preventing the messages, and this is usually due to some kind of spinal cord injury that severs the nerves in the nervous system.

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The Motor Cortex

Each part of the brain has a specific role. The part responsible for voluntary movements is called the motor cortex. It helps you to plan, control, and execute precise movements.

The motor cortex generates the necessary signals for physical movement and sends them through the nervous system to different body parts. Your body can then execute the necessary action such as turning your head, bringing a glass toward your mouth, or walking in a specific direction.

Current Systems

When a person has paralysis unrelated to brain damage, they are restricted by their nervous system. Scientists understand how this happens and know that the motor cortex is still in fine shape, so in the end, they focused on finding a way to exploit this knowledge.

Scientists succeeded in their search. The systems so far have required that a transmitter be planted into the brain of a person with paralysis. This transmitter is connected by wires to a computer.

The person can then transmit messages from the brain to the computer to execute simple actions like typing a message or pointing and clicking on a specific place on-screen.

Getting the Most From Your Brain

If scientists can find such amazing ways to use the brain, then surely we can also exploit our mental abilities some more. Attend the Brain-A-Thon and learn how to tap into your mind’s hidden potential.

Creating a Wireless Brain-Computer Connection

Brown University has been working on a new system that provides greater freedom to individuals with paralysis. The researchers wanted to unhook them from the physically-tethered wired systems, and they have succeeded!

Unhooking

With all the improvements in technology in recent years, the researchers at Brown University searched for a better way for individuals with paralysis to connect to computers.

They wanted to create a wireless connection between the transmitter in the brain and the computer. Researchers implanted the transmitters into the motor cortex and established the connection wirelessly with great success. The system is called BrainGate.

Breaking Boundaries

Participants were supposed to use the BrainGate technology in a laboratory during the clinical trial; however, the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to it. The researchers had to find a new way to test their technology.

Since BrainGate didn’t require a physical connection from participant to equipment, researchers sent them home with everything they needed for the study. Trained carers helped participants to establish the wireless connection to a tablet.

Participants could then complete the necessary tasks, and the system would log their results. The researchers at Brown University could then analyze these results even though they weren’t observing participants in person.

Getting Results

The final results indicated that participants could use the wireless BrainGate system with great ease. What’s even better is that they could type messages and point-and-click objects in the same time it would take to use a wired system.

The signals from the motor cortex were found to be some of the best quality yet which helped participants communicate and exercise some control. BrainGate finally gives individuals living with paralysis a chance to do more without being connected to a computer with wires.

Researchers can use these findings to design algorithms and expand the application of neurotransmitters so that even more progress can be made. The current application of the system also allows researchers to use some of the technology from wired systems in the new BrainGate prototype.

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Utilizing Systems

Any system is made up of different parts that relay a message from one point to the next to perform a specific action. Your brain is also a type of system, but sometimes, the messages get confused. It’s your brain playing tricks on you.

You can take control of your mental systems so that you dictate the processes and actions. When you do this, you allow yourself to use your brain optimally. Find out how you can do this by signing up for the virtual Brain-A-Thon.

Computer Science Holds Promise

Whether a person uses a wired or wireless neurotransmitter to control a computer, they can only do so because of advanced computer science. Computers, technology, and programming have opened a world of possibilities when it comes to making life better for anyone that has some kind of limitation on their life.

Improving Quality of Life

Computer science is the key to improving the quality of life for anyone living with paralysis. Systems like BrainGate allow users to take back some control of their lives.

These systems help people to communicate more clearly and articulate what assistance they need from carers. For many users of neurotransmitters, BrainGate and similar technologies in science allow users to work again which can be a liberating experience for them—it instills a sense of purpose and independence.

A Bright Future

BrainGate and similar technologies are the foundation of restoring abilities to anyone with paralysis. Neuroscience continues to improve, and major studies result in all kinds of new developments.

The more research is done on implanted neurotransmitters, the more possibilities open up for the future. The brain is exceptionally powerful, and establishing these types of remote connections can soon be used in other applications.

People are already using artificial limbs and other props to help them overcome challenges in various situations. It’s only a matter of time before researchers figure out the science of how to combine these technologies with neurotransmitters so that those with paralysis have the ability to do even more daily activities.

It’s an exciting time for neuroscience and its use in improving life for everyone. It can help to restore quality of life and allow more people to contribute to science for even better advancements.

Maximize Your Potential

Everyone has untapped potential within their brains. It is your decision whether you are going to change the situation so that you can do more and live better.

The experts at the Brain-A-Thon share their secrets to getting the most from your brain. Take the first steps to a better life and register now.

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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