How can I improve the practical work of prosthetics
Every movement we make - every grip and every step - has its origin in the brain. The aim of Carsten Mehring and his working group at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience and at the institute is to use the signals from the brain to control prostheses or to operate a computer, in order to create the basis for the development of prosthesis control for severely paralyzed patients for Biology I from the University of Freiburg.
With the ECoG, the electrodes are implanted directly on the surface of the brain and do not penetrate the brain tissue. They measure changes in tension on the surface of the brain that are caused by large groups of neurons. This method is less invasive and the measured signals are expected to be stable over a longer period of time. "We want to check whether this method is suitable for controlling movements and thus represents a possible alternative to fully invasive methods," explains Mehring and continues: "Our results give us hope that this could work".
Mehring carried out his research on epilepsy patients who had electrodes implanted under their skulls in preparation for brain surgery. Their brain activity was recorded while they moved to a target point on a screen by manipulating a handle with a cursor. With the help of mathematical algorithms, the scientists succeeded in extracting brain signals from these measurements that correlated with the cursor movement and with which a continuous reconstruction of the movement was possible.
In a next step, Mehring and his colleagues now want to investigate how well the strategy can be used to control a cursor on the screen with the help of neural activity without the subject moving their arm. "Previous studies show that the reconstruction of the movement from the brain signals can be improved in this way because the test person can learn to adapt his brain activity to the cursor control," says Mehring. "There is hope that, based on such methods, a prosthesis control or a means of communication for severely paralyzed patients can be developed in the future. However, many scientific and technical problems must be solved before such devices can be used in practice."
Source: Press Office University of Freiburg-January 17, 2007
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