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Researchers aim for 'direct brain control' of prosthetic arms
Date:7/27/2011

tactile, kinesthetic and force information from nerves in their skin and muscles," Contreras-Vidal said.

Contreras-Vidal has previously demonstrated technology that allowed test subjects to move a cursor on a computer screen simply by thinking about it. That technology noninvasively taps into the user's neural network using a cap of electrodes that read electrical activity on the scalp via electroencephalography (EEG). The team plans to combine this EEG information with real-time data about blood-oxygen levels in the user's frontal lobe using functional near-infrared (fNIR) technology developed by Drexel's Optical Brain Imaging Laboratory.

Shewokis said, "We want to provide intuitive control over contact tasks, and we're also interested in strengthening the motor imagery the patients are using as they think about what they want their arm to do. Ideally, this tactile or haptic feedback will improve the signal from the EEG and fNIR decoder and make it easier for patients to get their prosthetic arms to do exactly what they want them to do. We are moving toward incorporating the 'brain in the loop' for prosthetic use and control."

O'Malley said the new technology is a big leap over what's used in existing prosthetic devices, which don't allow amputees to feel what they touch. Some state-of-the-art prostheses today use force-feedback systems that vibrate -- much like the vibrate mode on a mobile phone -- to provide limited information about objects a prosthetic hand is gripping.

"Often, these vibrotactile cues aren't very helpful," O'Malley said. "Many times individuals simply rely on visual feedback -- watching their prosthesis grasp an object -- to infer whether the object is soft or hard, how tightly they are grasping it and the like. There's a lot of room for improvement."

"This truly unique team has been given the opportunity to help solve the challenging problem of brain-to-machine interface," Gillespie said. "I'm excit
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Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert

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