Saturday, December 16, 2017

Brain-Computer Interfaces: Applications, Challenges and the Future

The Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) are systems that allow through the thought to execute commands on computers or electronic devices. This technology, based on the reading of brain electrical impulses and its signal processing, is becoming more and more accessible to ordinary people when it was previously confined to enclosed spaces such as research laboratories or hospital clinics.

When we talk about BCIs, we have great contributions to its dissemination through Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. These, in recent comments, have given as examples cars monitored with the mind or writing by thought. While the company Neuralink is recruiting experts in this field, the multinational Facebook has created a research department aimed at implementing a solution that allows you to write 100 words per minute on a computer, tablet or smartphone, just thinking. With the daily technological advance, associated with artificial intelligence increasingly present in data processing, the question to be asked will not be "if it is possible" but rather "when it will be possible". The BCIs present today as a technology of high potential, although in embryonic phase.

In my opinion, an example of enormous success in the medical field refers to Locked-In syndrome. There are patients who are permanently bedridden for weeks or months, in the conscious state, but without their body being able to communicate with the outside, only being able to hear and some have sensitivity to the touch. Using the electroencephalography, with the placement of sensors in the patient's head, BCIs allow the reading and identification of thought patterns. Once two of these patterns can be clearly identified, with the help of a computer that processes and classifies the signal, the patient will be able to answer "Yes" or "No" to the questions posed. Even within the limitations described, imagine the happiness of the patient and his family when establishing this communication channel.

Many other solutions are now used in the area of ​​BCIs, such as neuro-prosthetics, treatment of attention disorders, neuro-rehabilitation or simply fun and leisure. Regarding this last example, the MindX game is being developed at the Champalimaud Foundation, with the aim of "flying" between circles that appear on the screen. In order to perform this movement, the player uses only the thought, controlling in a natural way his movements. Contrary to other systems presented a little around the world, this solution developed by a team of portuguese neuroscientists does not require days of training. Its use is practically immediate, representing a huge advance and potential of applicability on new scenarios.

(This article was published @

For more information about BCI/EEG press here.

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