By using technologies that harness the brain power, a patient who suffered paralysis one day be able to "think about" his legs to move.
Researchers at the University of California and Computational Neuroscience has developed a technology that for the first time allow doctors and scientists to isolate and measure the non-invasive electrical activity of the brain in people who are moving.
This technology is a key component of a type of brain computer interface that would allow a robotic exoskeleton controlled by a patient's mind to move the patient's limb, said Daniel Ferris who is a professor in the School of Kinesiology University of Michigan and lead author of a paper describing the research.
"Of course it will not happen immediately but one step towards a situation where it is possible is the ability to record brain waves while somebody is moving," said Joe Gwin who is first author of the paper and a graduate student researcher in the School doctoral level Part of Kinesiology and Engineering Mechanics. Similarly, as quoted from Physorg on Tuesday (11.02.10).
With this technology, the scientists can show the parts of the brain are activated and precisely when the parts are activated when the subjects move in a natural environment. For example, when we walk, the signals coming from certain parts of the brain that serves as a message is sent from the brain to the muscles. If scientists know where the brain impulses occur, they can use the location information to develop a variety of applications. Previously, scientists could only measure the electrical activity of the brain in patients who did not move.
Ferris likens isolating the electrical activity of the brain is like putting a microphone in the middle of a symphony to discern only certain instruments in certain areas, for example in the first chair oboe, or violin. Ideally in an orchestra, there are many sources of noise in the brain that produce excessive electrical activity, or noise. Even the electrode itself produces noise or noise when it moves in relation to the source.
The researchers identified brain activity that will be measured by attaching sensors to the subject lot is walking or running on a treadmill. Then they used magnetic resonance imaging to determine the head of the electrical activity of the brain where it originates. In this way, scientists can localize brain activity sources who want to know and ignore another activity if it does not originate in the brain.
Ferris also has a position in biomedical engineering said there were a bunch of reasons scientists can do this type of measurement now when it is not possible a few years ago. Colleagues at the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience finding computational tools to perform non-invasive measurements in people, and without the tool of measurement to be something impossible to do. Both groups of researchers then sought ahead and try those measurements on subjects who are walking or running. Anyway, the electrode is more sensitive and has better signal to noise ratio, he said.
The military is also interested in the type of technology that can be used to optimize the performance of the army in a way to monitor the brain activity of the soldiers in the field to know when soldiers are in peak performance. The technology could also help the military understand how information can be provided and how best handled by the soldiers.
In fact, any industry or organization interested in understanding how the brain and body interact, can benefit by knowing how the brain functions during the specified activity.
"We can imagine the brains of patients with different types of neurological disorders, and we might be able to target rehabilitation to a group of patients who show symptoms of the same," said Gwin. "If we can imagine the brain is currently undergoing some rehabilitation, we can design treatments are better."