Reconstructing Hand Movements Using Brain Signals
Fischell Department of Bioengineering graduate student Trent Bradberry, advised by Associate Professor José Contreras-Vidal (kinesiology, neuroscience and cognitive science program, and affiliate professor, Graduate Program in Bioengineering), published research in the March 3 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience which for the first time demonstrates that it is possible to decode and reconstruct 3-D hand movements from brain signals recorded through the use of noninvasive electroencephalography (EEG) technology. The new technique could someday enable those who have lost motor function to operate brain-controlled prostheses, computers or wheelchairs using a headset with scalp sensors that sends signals from the brain to the device. Bradberry's collaborators and co-authors on the project are Contreras-Vidal and Rodolphe Gentili (assistant research professor, kinesiology).
"Until now," says Contreras-Vidal, "this was not thought possible—people assumed EEG data was too limited."
The findings are significant because they open the door to the development of safe, portable, brain-controlled assistive devices for the neurologically-impaired or physically disabled. Prior to this study, researchers have used non-invasive but non-portable magnetoencephalography (MEG) technology and invasive methods that implanted sensors in the brain to reconstruct hand motions.
"Our results showed that electrical brain activity acquired from the scalp surface carries enough information to reconstruct continuous, unconstrained hand movements," says Contreras-Vidal. "We are currently working with [controlling] robotic arms and wearable upper limb exoskeletons, but our findings could also lead to improvements in existing EEG-based systems that are designed to allow people to control a computer cursor with their thoughts."
The information gathered by the ongoing study, he adds, could also help doctors understand how the progression of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease affect the brain's ability to control the body's movements.
The research was supported by the Paris-based La Fondation Motrice.
Story adapted from the original University of Maryland press release, courtesy of Leon Tune.
For More Information:
See "Reconstructing Three-Dimensional Hand Movements from Noninvasive Electroencephalographic Signals," Trent J. Bradberry, Rodolphe J. Gentili, and José L. Contreras-Vidal. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(9):3432-3437 »
March 30, 2010