The History Of Brain-Computer Interface Technology – When, Where, And How It Started?


Brain-computer interface technology has already allowed humans to control robots and computer cursors, decode mental handwriting, and synthesize speech. It has taken us where we could only have envisioned going, and it promises many more such wonders in the future.

But have you ever wondered when and how all of this started? Who first visualized human brain activity and developed the first brain-computer interface device? 

Let’s find out in this article the complete timeline of BCI’s development and honor the numerous people whose efforts helped pave the way for today’s groundbreaking research.

EEG Invention

An early pioneer in the field of the brain-computer interface was the German psychiatrist Hans Berger, who in 1924 utilized electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain activity for the first time. He first used silver wires inserted under the patient’s scalp as electrodes and later switched to silver foil electrodes attached to the head. The work of British surgeon Richard Caton, who recorded electrical potential from the exposed cortices of nonhuman apes, was a significant influence on his decision to record brain activity. This invention received a lot of skepticism from German medical and scientific establishments before finally being accepted and recognized internationally in 1937. After the invention of EEG, it started being used on a global scale to diagnose abnormalities in the brain. Right after its invention, it was also used by many researchers to demonstrate epilepsy. 

Neural Implants Development

A renowned Spanish neurophysiologist, José M. Delgado, invented the stimoceiver, the first implantable brain chip. It was a radio-equipped electrode array for stimulating a wide range of feelings in both animals and humans. He also designed “chemitrodes” – electrodes that can deliver precisely measured doses of drugs to targeted regions of the brain. He was widely criticized for his inventions and experiments due to ethical issues around brain implants back then, due to which he began looking into less intrusive methods of stimulating the brain. The idea of implantable electrodes was later studied extensively and eventually employed to treat a wide range of brain illnesses.

Origination of Brain-Computer Interface Technology

In 1965, American composer Alvin Lucier used electroencephalogram (EEG) data and analog signal processing techniques to control acoustic instruments, demonstrating the first usage of what would later be called a “Brain-Computer Interface.” This was the first piece of evidence that brain activity could be used to control machines.

In 1969, an American neuroscientist, Eberhard Fetz, showed that a monkey could learn to control the needle of a meter solely by its neural activity. He then went on to build bidirectional brain-computer interfaces to demonstrate their various applications in restoring function to damaged neural circuits

The term “Brain-Computer Interface” was coined by Jacques J. Vidal, a computer scientist, in the first peer-reviewed publication on this topic, Towards Direct Brain-Computer Communication published in 1973. He illustrated the promise and the problems of BCI devices as we know them now. Later in his research, in 1977, he showed that visual evoked potential could be used to move a cursor-like graphical object on a computer screen.

Evolution of Brain-Computer Interface Technology

Many other neuroscientists have since demonstrated the ability to operate numerous pieces of equipment, such as robots, by the use of brain activity, building on the initial demonstration of this technology. This technique was quickly implemented to aid in the recovery of lost senses of sight, hearing, and mobility.

A blind patient’s sight was recovered in 1978 thanks to the implantation of a single-array BCI into the visual brain. William Dobelle spent 30 years perfecting the brain implant he eventually installed in a patient.

Emory University in Atlanta implanted a brain device to allow a patient with locked-in syndrome to control a computer mouse with his thoughts. With the use of BrainGate’s chip implant, a tetraplegic patient was able to move a computer cursor and command a robotic arm with only his thoughts.

In recent years, revolutionary new aids to communication have been created using the brain-computer interface. In order to assist a disabled patient in writing his ideas, neuroscientists at Stanford University created a BCI model to decipher mental handwriting. There are a lot of neuroscientists trying to figure out how to synthesize the speech of people who are unable to speak due to paralysis or some other neurological issue. Additionally, the introduction of non-invasive brain implants like Stentrode has led to a rise in their clinical value and efficacy by lowering the risk of complications following installation.

Learn about the most significant developments in the past few years: Top 5 Innovations In Neuroscience.

In addition to advancing research, many neurotechnology businesses have entered the market to meet the growing need for these life-changing aids.

Explore the best names in the neurotechnology industry right here: Top 6 Neurotechnology Companies.

This is just a taste of the history that prepared the path for the creation of this technology. Many more brilliant and motivational scientists have made lifelong contributions to where we are currently. It wouldn’t be feasible without the contributions of these incredible scientists, even if we now have much more efficient and technologically advanced components.

Which technological advancement do you consider to have been the game-changer for this field? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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