An investigational implanted system being developed to translate brain signals toward control of assistive devices has allowed a woman with paralysis to accurately control a computer cursor at 2.7 years after implantation, providing a key demonstration that neural activity can be read out and converted into action for an unprecedented length of time. Demonstrating an important milestone for the longevity and utility of implanted brain-computer interfaces, a woman with tetraplegia using the investigational BrainGate system continued to control a computer cursor accurately through neural activity alone more than 1,000 days after receiving the BrainGate implant, according to a team of physicians, scientists, and engineers developing and testing the technology at Brown University, the Providence VA Medical Center, and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
The woman performed two ‘point-and-click’ tasks each day by thinking about moving the cursor with her hand. In both tasks she averaged greater than 90 percent accuracy. Some on-screen targets were as small as the effective area of a Microsoft Word menu icon. Experimental results highlight the potential for an intracortical neural interface system to provide a person that has locked-in syndrome with reliable, continuous point-and-click control of a standard computer application. The BrainGate system is a combination of hardware and software that directly senses electrical signals produced by neurons in the brain that control movement. By decoding those signals and translating them into digital instructions, the system is being evaluated for its ability to give people with paralysis control of external devices such as computers, robotic assistive devices, or wheelchairs.