An investigational brain-computer interface (BCI) can enable people with paralysis to directly operate an off-the-shelf tablet device by thinking about making cursor movements and clicks, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Three clinical trial participants with tetraplegia received the investigational BrainGate brain-computer interface implant, which detects the signals associated with intended movements produced in the brain’s motor cortex.
These neural signals were routed to a Bluetooth interface configured to work like a wireless mouse. The virtual mouse was then paired to an unmodified Google Nexus 9 tablet, which had all preloaded accessibility software turned off.
The participants were then asked to perform a set of tasks using the tablet, designed to see how well they were able to navigate within a variety of commonly used apps, and move from app to app. The participants browsed through music selections on a streaming service, searched for videos on YouTube, scrolled through a news aggregator and composed emails and chats.
The authors note that this study has the potential to open important new lines of communication between patients with severe neurological deficits and their health care providers, especially since the brain-computer interface system does not require a special assistive communication technology to function.