Neuroscientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a novel approach for measuring and deciphering brain activity that holds out promise of providing improved movements of natural or artificial limbs by those who have been injured or paralyzed.
Neuroscientists have long been working towards achieving a better understanding of the relationship between brain activity and behavior, and especially between neural activity in the motor regions of the cortex and hand movements.
In addition to addressing basic scientific questions, this line of research carries important practical implications, since the identification of precise relationships would enable neuroscientists to assist in the construction of devices through which brain signals will activate muscles in a paralyzed limb or a prosthetic (robotic) arm.
In an article recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, Hebrew University neurophysiologists Eran Stark and Prof. Moshe Abeles report on their new approach for measuring and deciphering brain activity, which avoids many of the drawbacks of current methods and which provides an accurate decoding of brain activity.
Currently, two methods are being used to measure brain activity in the context of neuro-prosthetic devices. The first method is based on the EEG (electroencephalogram) and is measured either over the scalp, directly from the cortical surface, or from the cortex itself. The second method is based on the activity of individual nerve cells within the cortex, and uses intra-cortical electrodes which essentially are fine wires.
Each method has advantages but is also subject to considerable drawbacks. To decipher brain activity at a level of accuracy that is sufficient to activate a paralyzed limb or a robotic arm, a large number of parallel and preferably independent measurements must be taken from a relatively small area (in humans, about 4 cm2). Neither of the above two methods
|Contact: Jerry Barach|
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem