Playing space invaders with brain signals


A St. Louis-area teenage boy and a computer game have gone hands-off, thanks to a unique experiment conducted by a team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, and engineers at Washington University in St. Louis. The boy, a 14-year-old who suffers from epilepsy, is the first teenager to play a two-dimensional video game, Space Invaders, using only the signals from his brain to make movements.

Robot plays music and follows rhythm

Robotic banjos player that plays along with musicians


Nov 2005

A few years ago scientists managed to wire a monkey's brain to a robotic arm. The monkey learned to manipulate the arm simply by thinking. This year, John Donoghue at Brown University has managed to do the same – with a human.

Matthew Nagel, a C4 paralytic – from the neck down – has been playing pong, drawing circles and manipulating a computer with thoughts alone via the BrainGate. This technology promises to have profound changes on the lives of millions of paralyzed and handicapped individuals, but implications run much deeper and may one day affect us all.

Robot scientist

Nature 427, 181 (15 January 2004); doi:10.1038/427181b

a British team unveils an automated system that "originates hypotheses to explain observations, devises experiments to test these hypotheses, physically runs the experiments using a laboratory robot, interprets the results to falsify hypotheses inconsistent with the data, and then repeats the cycle".

What's more, when set loose on experiments to investigate the genetic control of important metabolic pathways in yeast, it performs more cost effectively than scientifically educated human volunteers.

'Laser vision'

US firm Microvision has developed a system that projects lasers onto the retina, allowing users to view images on top of their normal field of vision.

It could allow surgeons to get a bird's eye view of the innards of a patient, offer military units in the field a view of the entire battlefield and provide mechanics with a simulation of the inside of a car's engine.

The system uses tiny lasers, which scan their light onto the retina to produce the entire range of human vision, reported the journal of the Institute of the Electrical and Electronics Engineers, IEEE Spectrum.

Real-time control of a robot arm using simultaneously recorded neurons in the motor cortex of a rat

To determine whether mathematically transformed activity of simultaneously recorded neuronal populations in the motor cortex and thalamus can be used for direct real-time control of an external motion device, rats were trained to obtain water by using their forelimbs to move a manipulandum to position a robot arm under a water dropper. While linear transformations of the discharge of populations of 21-46 neurons accurately predicted movement direction, nonlinear functions in the spatiotemporal domain were more effective for predicting movement timing and magnitude. Next, this neuronal population activity was electronically transformed into a real-time signal for controlling the position of the robot arm.

Chapin, J.K, Moxon, K.A., Markowitz, R.S. and Nicolelis, M.A.L. (1999) Real-time control of a robot arm using simultaneously recorded neurons in the motor cortex. Nature Neurosci., 2:664-670.