Electroencephalography based Brain2Robot Project which reads and uniquely processes brain signals

This EEG based engineering system, which
reads and uniquely processes brain signals, from researchers at the Fraunhofer
Institute for Computer Architecture and Software Technology promises to offer
more freedoms to paralyzed patients:
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Architecture and Software
Technology FIRST and the Charite hospital in Berlin have been working on this
type of interface for almost seven years. For the input, they use a perfectly
normal electroencephalogram (EEG), just like the ones used in everyday clinical
practice. Electrodes attached to the patient’s scalp measure the brain’s
electrical signals, which are amplified and transmitted to a computer. Highly
efficient algorithms analyze these signals using a self-learning technique. The
software is capable of detecting changes in brain activity that take place even
before a movement is carried out. It can recognize and distinguish between the
patterns of signals that correspond to an intention to raise the left or right
hand, and extract them from the pulses being fired by millions of other neurons
in the brain. These neural signal patterns are then converted into control
instructions for the computer. "The aim of the project is to help people
with severe motor disabilities to carry out everyday tasks. The advantage of our
technology is that it is capable of translating an intended action directly into
instructions for the computer," says team leader Florin Popescu. The
Brain2Robot project has been granted around 1.3 million euros in research
funding under the EU’s sixth Framework Programme (FP6). Its focus lies on
developing medical applications, in particular control systems for prosthetics,
personal robots and wheelchairs. The researchers have also developed a
"thought-controlled typewriter", a communication device that enables
severely paralyzed patients to pick out letters of the alphabet and write texts.
The robot arm could be ready for commercialization in just a few years’ time.
See figure
The development team will be presenting their robot arm at Medica 2007 in Düsseldorf
(Hall 3, Stand F92).
Note for Electroencephalography
Electroencephalography is the neurophysiologic measurement of the electrical
activity of the brain by recording from electrodes placed on the scalp or, in
special cases, subdurally or in the cerebral cortex. The resulting traces are
known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) and represent a summation of
post-synaptic potentials from a large number of neurons. These are sometimes
called brainwaves, though this use is discouraged, because the brain is not
known to broadcast electrical waves. The EEG is a brain function test, but in
clinical use it is a "gross correlate of brain activity". Electrical
currents are not measured, but rather voltage differences between different
parts of the brain.
There are a number of benefits to using EEG in neuroscience research. One is
that EEG is non-invasive to the research subject. Furthermore, the need for the
subject to hold still is perhaps less stringent than in functional magnetic
resonance imaging (fMRI). Another benefit is that many applications of the EEG
record spontaneous brain activity, and the subject does not need to be able to
cooperate with the research (e.g., as is necessary in the behavioral testing of
neuropsychology). Also, the EEG has a high temporal resolution compared to
techniques such as fMRI and is capable of detecting changes in electrical
activity in the brain on a millisecond time scale.
About Sixth Framework Programme
The Sixth Framework Programme (abbreviated FP6) was the Framework Programme for
Research and Technological Development from 2002 till 2006 set up by the
European Union (EU) in order to fund and promote European research and
technological development. It is a collection of the actions at EU level. The
main objective of FP6 is to contribute to the creation of the European Research
Area by improving integration and co-ordination of research in Europe, which is
so far largely fragmented.
The research projects funded and supported in this framework have to be
transnational, in other words managed by consortia of partners from different
countries, and interdisciplinary : gathering research centers, innovative
companies, in particular small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and public
administrations. Moreover, the funded projects have to be focused on one of the
seven thematic priorities defined by the Programme.

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