The field of neuroscience has seen several breakthroughs in the last few years, from the development of devices to aid those who are paralyzed to the discovery of treatments for a wide variety of neurological conditions. Neuroscience has great potential to help those in need of assistive technologies or therapeutic interventions live fuller, more satisfying lives.
Read about some of the recent developments in the world of neuroscience here.
Decoding Mental Handwriting
In the past, we’ve used the P300 signal and eye movement activity to help patients in a locked-in state type out their thoughts. Making significant progress, neuroscientists at Stanford University have developed a BCI model capable of decoding mental handwriting. A person with a spinal cord injury was unable to use his hands to write, but his brain nonetheless sent the appropriate motor impulses to his hand to make the movement possible. Electrodes placed in the brain picked up these impulses, which were then analyzed and fed into a deep learning model, which eventually decoded the hand movement. With this BCI model, researchers were able to increase the writing speed to 90 characters per minute.
Read more about the research here.
A person in a locked-in state can now communicate through typing and writing, but he is unable to employ the fastest form of human communication: speech. Therefore, scientists are trying to figure out how to interpret the words of a person who has suffered a stroke or paralysis. Researchers at UC San Francisco have figured out how to translate brain signals for vocal muscle activity into audible speech. With the help of speech neuroprosthetics, the user was able to speak at a rate of 18 words per minute. This BCI system is still in its infancy, but there is hope for exciting developments in the near future.
Check out this article for more information.
‘Stentrode’ Brain Implant
Brain implants usually require a craniotomy to be done on the person, which leads to a wide range of adverse health effects, including inflammation of brain tissue and seizures. This calls for a non-invasive or partially invasive electrode that could be placed without opening the brain. The team at Synchron had built a stent-like electrode, or stentrode, which can be injected into the blood vessel near the brain to record brain activity. It has been approved by the FDA for clinical trials and has been successfully implanted in a paralyzed patient, helping him to operate a computer.
Learn more about stentrode here.
‘Neurograins’ BCI Sensors
A typical BCI system involves the use of a single sensor to record a specific brain region for a particular task. However, as technology advances, we will want BCIs that can record from a wider variety of brain regions and carry out a wider variety of activities. Researchers at Brown University have developed implantable sensors the size of a grain of salt called “neurograins” that can record from and stimulate numerous brain regions. Despite the lack of human testing, this is an exciting development toward the development of BCIs with a wider range of applications.
Read more about Neurograins here.
UCLA scientists have successfully created brain organoids, three-dimensional structures that resemble the brain. Since these organoids are capable of producing electrical activity similar to that found in the human brain, they can be used to research a wide range of neurological conditions, such as epileptic seizures, and to test potential remedies for them before they are used on humans.
Check out more information on brain organoids here.
This is just a glimpse of the many innovations that have happened in the past decade. There will be many more innovations like this in the future, all of which will benefit those in need and shake up the technological landscape.
Let us know your views in the comments section.
Follow The Brainy Bits for more interesting content