Researchers have found that brain signals from patients with severe, long-term paralysis can be translated through a computer to allow those patients to perform some physical actions.
In an article published in the July 13 issue of Nature, researchers discuss initial results of a clinical trial studying the BrainGate Neural Interface System, a "neuromotor prosthesis" developed by Foxborough, Mass.-based Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems.
The studies were conducted during 2004 and 2005 at multiple sites. Several patients with severe spinal cord injuries were able control a computer cursor simply by thinking about moving it, researchers said.
The BrainGate device is a tiny sensor with 100 electrodes, each thinner than a human hair. The sensor is implanted on the surface of the brain area that controls voluntary movement, the motor cortex. The electrodes pick up electrical signals -- known as "neural spiking" -- which are transmitted to computers that process the signals and generate physical actions.
The device is still in its initial stages of development, and signal quality can be inconsistent, the article notes.