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A Brain-Computer Interface to Reanimate the Limbs Following Spinal Injury

9/24/2013

A Brain-Computer Interface to Reanimate the Limbs Following Spinal Injury

9/24/2013

Investigator Team: Dr. Joshua Smith, Department of Computer Science and Engineering/Electrical Engineering; Dr. Adrienne Fairhall, Department of Physiology & Biophysics and Physics; Dr. Chet Moritz, Rehabilitation Medicine and Physiology & Biophysics.
Institution: University of Washington
Project title: “A Brain-Computer Interface to Reanimate the Limbs Following Spinal Injury: Development of a Brain-Computer-Spinal Interface”
Award Amount: $1.5 million (2013)

These three investigators are using their ADI funding to develop a cutting-edge system that blends technology, neuroscience and computation to reanimate hand and arm movements in patients with spinal cord injuries. The project will result in an application that will improve the lives of patients, and also answer basic questions about neural signaling and engineering, which will be foundational for subsequent innovations and applications.

There are currently no effective treatments for a chronically injured spinal cord, and hand and arm function is the highest treatment priority for individuals in this situation. The new system will record a patient’s intent to move a hand and arm via electrodes in the brain, then decode the user intention using an implanted computer and exchanging data with an external control unit. Finally, it will deliver real-time stimulation to the spinal cord to re-animate paralyzed limbs.
 

Utilizing new technology and techniques, the proposed system overcomes several common barriers, such as muscle fatigue, risk of infection and potentially the requirement to recalibrate algorithms used to extract intention from recordings in the brain.