Brain-computer interface is collaboration between a brain and a device that enables signals from the brain to direct some external activity, such as control of a cursor or a prosthetic limb. The interface enables a direct communications pathway between the brain and the object to be controlled. In the case of cursor control, for example, the signal is transmitted directly from the brain to the mechanism directing the cursor, rather than taking the normal route through the body’s neuromuscular system from the brain to the finger on a mouse.
Imagine transmitting signals directly to someone’s brain that would allow them to see, hear or feel specific sensory inputs. Consider the potential to manipulate computers or machinery with nothing more than a thought.
The BCI Brunner demonstrated is based on a method called the Wadsworth system. Like other EEG-based BCI technologies, the Wadsworth system uses adaptive algorithms and pattern-matching techniques to facilitate communication. Both user and software are expected to adapt and learn, making the process more efficient with practice.
History of the BCI:
The history of brain–computer interfaces starts with Hans Berger’s discovery of the electrical activity of the human brain and the development of electroencephalography (EEG). In 1924 Berger was the first to record human brain activity by means of EEG. Berger was able to identify oscillatory activity, such as Berger’s wave or the alpha wave (8–13 Hz), by analyzing EEG traces.
Berger’s first recording device was very rudimentary. He inserted silver wires under the scalps of his patients. However, more sophisticated measuring devices, such as the Siemens double-coil recording galvanometer, which displayed electric voltages as small as one ten thousandth of a volt, led to success.
In 1988 report was given on noninvasive EEG control of a physical object, a robot. The experiment described was EEG control of multiple start-stop-restart of the robot movement, along an arbitrary trajectory defined by a line drawn on a floor. The line-following behavior was the default robot behavior, utilizing autonomous intelligence and autonomous source of energy.
The reason a BCI works at all is because of the way our brains function. Our brains are filled with neurons, individual nerve cells connected to one another by dendrites and axons. Every time we think, move, feel or remember something, our neurons are at work. That work is carried out by small electric signals that zip from neuron to neuron as fast as 250 mph. The signals are generated by differences in electric potential carried by ions on the membrane of each neuron.
For example, researchers could figure out what signals are sent to the brain by the optic nerve when someone sees the color red. They could rig a camera that would send those exact signals into someone’s brain whenever the camera saw red, allowing a blind person to “see” without eyes.