Thursday, September 27, 2007
4:15 pm
B17 Upson Hall

Computer Science
Fall 2007

Michael J. Black
Brown University

Directly Connecting Brains and Machines:
The Development of a Human Neural Interface System

Recent advances in neuroscience have made it possible to restore or improve lost function in people with central nervous system injury by directly coupling brains with computers. Building a direct, artificial, connection between the brain and the world requires answers to the following questions:

1. What "signals" can we measure from the brain? From what regions? With what technology?
2. How is information represented (or encoded) in the brain?
3. What algorithms can we use to infer (or decode) the internal "state" of the brain?
4. How can we build safe, practical, interfaces for persons with physical disability that take best advantage of the available technology?

This talk will summarize work at Brown University on developing neural interface systems and will provide preliminary answers to the above questions with a focus on the problem of modeling and decoding motor cortical activity. The talk will show the current state of the art and recent results from pilot clinical trials in which paralyzed participants, with an implanted neuronal recording device, have obtained point and click cursor control. The resulting hybrid bionic systems offer new hope for treating disease and injury to the central nervous system.