Each participant, after minimal training, mastered the technique sufficiently to outperform the results of any previous test of brain-computer interfaces, or BCIs, for enhancing communication by people with similarly impaired movement.
Leigh Hochberg, MD, Ph D, a neurologist and neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brown University and the VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Center for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology in Providence, Rhode Island, directs the pilot clinical trial of the Brain Gate system and is a study co-author.
“This incredible collaboration continues to break new ground in developing powerful, intuitive, flexible neural interfaces that we all hope will one day restore communication, mobility and independence for people with neurologic disease or injury,” said Hochberg.
“I’ve got nothing going on below the collarbones,” he said.
Degray received two device implants at Henderson’s hands in August 2016.
Henderson and Krishna Shenoy, Ph D, professor of electrical engineering, are co-senior authors of the paper, which was published online Feb. The lead authors are former postdoctoral scholar Chethan Pandarinath, Ph D, and postdoctoral scholar Paul Nuyujukian, MD, Ph D, both of whom spent well over two years working full time on the project at Stanford.
“This study reports the highest speed and accuracy, by a factor of three, over what’s been shown before,” said Shenoy, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator who’s been pursuing BCI development for 15 years and working with Henderson since 2009.“We’re approaching the speed at which you can type text on your cellphone.” “The performance is really exciting,” said Pandarinath, who now has a joint appointment at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology as an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.“We’re achieving communication rates that many people with arm and hand paralysis would find useful.Previous generations picked up signals first via electrical leads placed on the scalp, then by being surgically positioned at the brain’s surface beneath the skull.An intracortical BCI uses a tiny silicon chip, just over one-sixth of an inch square, from which protrude 100 electrodes that penetrate the brain to about the thickness of a quarter and tap into the electrical activity of individual nerve cells in the motor cortex.“This is like one of the coolest video games I’ve ever gotten to play with,” he said.“And I don’t even have to put a quarter in it.” The study’s results are the culmination of a long-running collaboration between Henderson and Shenoy and a multi-institutional consortium called Brain Gate.Stanford research assistant Christine Blabe was also a study co-author, as were Brain Gate researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Case Western University.The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (grants R01DC014034, R011NS066311, R01DC009899, N01HD53404 and N01HD10018), the Stanford Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the Craig H.In several ensuing research sessions, he and the other two study participants, who underwent similar surgeries, were encouraged to attempt or visualize patterns of desired arm, hand and finger movements.Resulting neural signals from the motor cortex were electronically extracted by the embedded recording devices, transmitted to a computer and translated by Shenoy’s algorithms into commands directing a cursor on an onscreen keyboard to participant-specified characters.