Open-Skull Brain-Machine Interface to Control Robotic Limbs

A neurosurgery team at Osaka University is now installing brain-machine interfaces directly into patients' heads. They claim the invasive open-skull surgery allows control over robotic limbs with the mind more accurately. In fact, in trials with four test subjects, their method has more than 80% accuracy.

Open-Skull Brain-Machine Interface to Control Robotic Limbs

Team leader Professor Toshiki Yoshimine says that using electrode sheets directly installed over the brain's surface increases the sensibility in comparison to skin electrodes. This is a risky procedure in and of itself, so the team has been working with volunteers that had electrodes installed for other medical applications, like epilepsy monitoring.

The operation doesn't require penetration into the brain itself: they put the electrode sheet in the central sulcus, also called the Rolandic fissure after Luigi Rolando, the Italian professor who devoted his life to the study of brain anatomy. This fold separates the brain's parietal lobe from the frontal lobe, but more importantly in this case, the primary motor cortex from the primary somatosensory cortex—the key area for voluntary muscle operation in the body.

The Osaka University team's next step is to actually connect these patients to actual robotic limbs, so they can control them using the software modelled after the data collected from their previous experiments. [Asahi via Pink Tentacle]