Scientists demonstrate first ‘plug and play’ brain prosthesis in paralyzed person

Scientists have completed the first demonstration of a “plug and play” brain prosthesis controlled by a paralyzed person.

The system uses machine learning to control the computer interface with the person’s brain. Unlike most brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), AI worked without the need for extensive daily retraining.

Senior author Karunesh Ganguly, an associate professor in the UC San Francisco Department of Neurology, described the success in a statement:

The BCI field has made a lot of progress in recent years, but because existing systems have had to reset and recalculate each day, they have not been able to tap into the brain’s natural learning processes. It is asking someone to learn to ride a bike repeatedly from scratch. Adopting an artificial learning system to work smoothly with the brain’s sophisticated long-term learning schema is something that has never been shown before in a paralyzed person.

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The system uses an electrocortography (ECoG) array about the size of a Post-It note. The array is placed directly on the surface of the brain, where it monitors electrical activity from the cerebral cortex.

Credit: Noah Berger for UCSF