this absolutely amazes me. so far four volunteers--all of whom are totally unable to move their arms, legs or bodies due to injury or disease and using a device that isnt implanted in their brains or require any invasive installation--have been able to successfully learn to control a computer cursor by visualizing how and where they want it to be positioned.
here's what it looks like:
here--as reported in the la times dec 7, 2004--who's responsible and their description of how and why it works:
Instead, scientists at the New York State Department of Health and the State University of New York designed a system to monitor the faint electricity that naturally radiates from every brain and then created special computer software to translate those reflections of thought into direct action.
The research, which was made public in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appears to offer a means for people paralyzed by stroke, spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) to operate computers or prosthetic devices by imagining the movement.
The researchers used a skein of 64 electrodes in a cap placed on the scalp to eavesdrop on the wasted energy of thought, tapping into the patterns of neural electricity that normally dissipate in the immediate vicinity of the skull.
"Using signals recorded from the scalp, people can learn to gain control of movement," said clinical neurologist Jonathan R. Wolpaw, who spent the last decade developing the experimental system with psychologist Dennis J. McFarland. "They can achieve impressively accurate and rapid control. It may not be necessary to stick something into the brain."
In order to capture the proper neural signals, the researchers needed only to position the electrodes around the general location of the brain's sensory motor cortex. The computer software was designed to adapt to the patient's increasing ability to move the cursor."
while the devlopers are very cautiously optimistic because using the technology requires some intensive training, it does seem to offer a wealth of possibilities to those who are now literally trapped in their inanimate bodies. controlling a cursor suggests being able to operate a variety of computer controlled devices.
while similar results have been achieved by other devices, they required brain implants which carrries significant risks even under the best of conditions.
i had no idea that brain activity could be detected and translated this way. the implications are staggering (that even seems like understatement). making machines do things merely by envisioning what i want done is is only slightly less difficult for me to imagine than traveling from europe to asia in a matter of hours in a machine that flies musta been to anyone alive a just a little less than 100 years ago.