‘Mind over matter’ no longer science fiction

By | June 22, 2006

Mind over matter no longer science fiction

Sitting stone still under a skull cap fitted with a couple dozen electrodes, American scientist Peter Brunner stares at a laptop computer. Without so much as moving a nostril hair, he suddenly begins to compose a message — letter by letter — on a giant screen overhead. “B-O-N-J-O-U-R” he writes with the power of his mind, much to the amazement of the largely French audience of scientists and curious onlookers gathered at the four-day European Research and Innovation Exhibition in Paris, which opened Thursday.

Brunner and two colleagues from the state-financed Wadsworth Center in Albany, New York were demonstrating a “brain computer interface (BCI),” an astounding technology which digitalizes brain signals emitted as electrical impulses — picked up by the electrodes — to convey intent.

While no spoons were bent, this was definitely mind over matter.

Without recourse to nerves or muscles, BCI “can provide communication and control to people who are totally paralyzed” and unable to unable to speak or move, explains researcher Theresa Sellers, also from Wadsworth.

… As Dr. Brunner concentrates on the “B” of “bonjour” in a keyboard-like grid of letters and symbols taking up half the screen, a computer randomly highlights lines of characters in rapid succession.

Each time the row — vertical or horizontal — containing the letter “B” is illuminated, Brunner’s brain emits a slightly stronger signal. It takes the computer about 15 seconds to figure out what letter he is looking at. The system is doubly adaptive, with both the software and the person using it becoming more efficient over time.? – physorg?

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