A group of scientists from Osaka University Hospital is set to conduct clinical research aimed at mechanically producing the actions directed by disabled people’s brain waves. If successful, the research would make it possible, among other things, for people who cannot use their arms and legs to display their thoughts on the screen of a personal computer.
It would also enable physically handicapped persons to manipulate robots.
The group intends to apply for approval from the university hospital’s ethics committee this spring for their research on patients who are suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body. They plan to eventually expand their research to patients with serious disabilities resulting from strokes and other ailments.
The research will be led by Prof. Toshiki Yoshimine and Masayuki Hirata, a specially appointed associate professor, at the university hospital. It will be the first time in Japan that BMI technology will used to help severely disabled people.
Currently, the primary communication method used by ALS patients is focusing their eyes on boards containing letters of the alphabet.
The team’s research will attach a sheet of about 100 electrodes measuring about 1 millimeter in diameter to the surface of the motor area of the brain of a patient who has developed severe ALS. The patient’s brain waves will be measured by the electrodes and a specialist will analyze the waves’ movement.
When conveying one’s intentions by using a personal computer with a letter board on its screen, for example, sentences can be created quickly if the person visualizes the movement of a cursor in their brain, the researchers said.
They also plan to experiment with connecting the brain waves to a robot so the robot changes its body position and otherwise moves as the person wishes.
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