Scientists have established the first wireless connection between a computer and a human brain, in a potentially huge breakthrough for people with paralysis. The new system transmits brain signals at “single-neuron resolution and in full broadband fidelity” according to researchers at Brown University in the United States.
The team conducted a clinical trial of the new BrainGate technology with a small transmitter connected to the motor cortex in the human brain. The trial involved paralysis patients who used the system to control a tablet computer, according to the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
The system gave the patients a typing speed and point-click accuracy similar to a wired connection.
John Simeral, assist professor of engineering with Brown University, says “We’ve demonstrated that this wireless system is functionally equivalent to the wired systems that have been the gold standard. The signals are recorded and transmitted with appropriately similar fidelity, which means we can use the same decoding algorithms we used with wired equipment.”
The wireless system means people do not have to be physically connected to the equipment, allowing for new possibilities in how the systems can be used.
The new advancement shows the continued growth in neural interface technologies. Many are interested in the new technological field, particularly individuals such as Elon Musk and companies such as Facebook. For his part, Elon Musk recently revealed the Neuralink startup tested a wireless chip on a monkey, allowing the monkey to play video games.
The Brown University trial involved two patients, aged 35 and 63, who have paralysis due to spinal cord injuries. The patients managed to use the systems for a full 24 hours at home rather than in a laboratory setting. The relative ease of use for the system allows caregivers to connect the systems. This means research and testing can continue during the pandemic.