Brain-Machine Interface

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MIT Review – 10 Breakthrough Technologies – 2001

Nicolelis terms such systems “hybrid brain-machine interfaces” or HBMIs. Recently, working with the Laboratory for Human and Machine Haptics at MIT, he scored an important first on the HBMI front, sending signals from individual neurons in Belle’s brain to a robot, which used the data to mimic the monkey’s arm movements in real time.

Nicolelis predicts that HBMIs will allow human brains to control artificial devices designed to restore lost sensory and motor functions. Paralysis sufferers, for example, might gain control over a motorized wheelchair or a prosthetic arm-perhaps even regain control over their own limbs. “Imagine,” says Nicolelis, “if someone could do for the brain what the pacemaker did for the heart.” And, in much the same way that a musician grows to feel that her instrument is a part of her own body, Nicolelis believes the brain will prove capable of readily assimilating human-made devices.

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