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Controlling by thoughts

Gernot Müller-Putz, Head of the Institute of Neural Engineering at the Graz University of Technology © Lunghammer - Graz University of Technology

They measure the person's brain activity and convert the electrical currents into control signals for neuroprostheses. This is equivalent to "controlling by thoughts," as Gernot Müller-Putz puts it in simplified terms. The head of the Institute of Neural Engineering at the Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) is intensively involved with non-invasive BCI systems. He and his team have achieved initial positive results with EEG-based control of neuroprostheses or robotic arms in people with spinal cord injuries over the last ten years.

Now a further breakthrough has been achieved. The TU Graz researchers have succeeded for the first time in controlling a robotic arm in real time purely by thought. This was made possible by decoding continuous movement intention from brain signals. The researchers first examined a variety of movement parameters such as position, speed and distance, and extracted their correlates from the neuronal activity. "The contribution of the eyes is essential here," says Müller-Putz. "It is important that users are allowed to use their eyes to follow the trajectory of the robotic arm." And he adds. "The participants not only see the movements of the prosthesis, but they also feel them," explains a pleased Müller-Putz. Technically, this was made possible with the help of vibration sensors.

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