Two Brown faculty members are leading the research: Donoghue and Dr. Leigh Hochberg, associate professor of engineering at Brown and a vascular and critical care neurologist at MGH, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Hochberg is also affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the VA Medical Center in Providence.
The new trial is taking place at a time of great promise for neurotechnology research. "We are entering a new age of neurotechnology. Our fundamental understanding of the nervous system, combined with advances in engineering, may help people with brain and spinal cord injuries and diseases," Donoghue said.
"We are working to develop and test new technologies that we hope will help patients with devastating illnesses that limit their ability to move or to speak," Hochberg said. "The goal of our research is to harness the brain signals that ordinarily accompany movement and to translate those signals into actions on a computer, like moving a cursor on the screen, or the movement of a robotic or prosthetic limb."
A previous clinical trial run by Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems Inc., together with researchers at MGH and Brown, demonstrated that the neural signals associated with the intent to move a limb can be "decoded" by a computer in real time and used to operate external devices. The BrainGate Neural Interface System involves a sensor placed on a part of a study participant's brain called the motor cortex. During earlier research sessions, a computer was connected to the sensor through a pedestal on the participant's head, allowing the participants to control a computer cursor by simply thinking about the movement of their own paralyzed hand.
"We learned an incredible amount with the assistance of the first participants in the BrainGate trial, not only about how the motor cortex continues to work after paralyzing illness or injury, but also about how to harness these
|Contact: Mark Hollmer|