This data could help stroke victims in several ways, Forrester says. One is a prosthetic device, called an "anklebot," or ankle robot, that stores data from a normal human gait and assists partially paralyzed people. People who are less mobile commonly suffer from other health issues such as obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular problems, Forrester says , "so we want to get [stroke survivors] up and moving by whatever means possible."
The second use of the EEG data in stroke victims is more complex, yet offers exciting possibilities. "By decoding the motion of a normal gait," Contreras-Vidal says, "we can then try and teach stroke victims to think in certain ways and match their own EEG signals with the normal signals." This could "retrain" healthy areas of the brain in what is known as neuroplasticity.
One potential method for retraining comes from one of the Maryland research team's newest members, Steve Graff, a first-year bioengineering doctoral student. He envisions a virtual reality game that matches real EEG data with on-screen characters. "It gives us a way to train someone to think the right thoughts to generate movement from digital avatars. If they can do that, then they can generate thoughts to move a device," says Graff, who brings a unique personal perspective to the work. He has congenital muscular dystrophy and uses a motorized wheelchair. The advances he's working on could allow him to use both hands to put on a jacket, dial his cell phone or throw a football while operating his chair with his mind.
No Surgery Required
During the past two decades a great deal of progress has been made in the study of direct brain to computer interfaces, most of it through studies using monkeys with electrodes implanted in their brains. However, for use in humans such an invasive approach poses many problems, not the least of which is that most people don't' want holes in their heads and wires at
|Contact: Lee Tune|
University of Maryland