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Brain-machine interface

Instant neural control of a movement signal

Hands-free operation of a cursor can be achieved by a few neurons in the motor cortex.


The activity of motor cortex (MI) neurons conveys movement intent sufficiently well to be used as a control signal to operate artificial devices1,2,3, but until now this has called for extensive training or has been confined to a limited movement repertoire2,3. Here we show how activity from a few (7–30) MI neurons can be decoded into a signal that a monkey is able to use immediately to move a computer cursor to any new position in its workspace (14° × 14° visual angle). Our results, which are based on recordings made by an electrode array that is suitable for human use4,5, indicate that neurally based control of movement may eventually be feasible in paralysed humans.

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Figure 1: Performance of a target acquisition using hand or neural control.


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M.D. Serruya, N.G. Hatsopoulos, and J.P. Donoghue are founders and major stockholders of a Cyberkinetics, Inc. The purpose of this company is to promote the development of neural prosthetic devices. The company was founded June, 2001 and has not product, granted patents or intelluctual property at this time. All five authors are co-inventors on a Brown University patent which has just been submitted (November 2001) for review. This patent is related to the work described in this report. The research reported in our article was performed by Brown University faculty and students and was funded only by a NIH/NINDS contract to JPD.

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Serruya, M., Hatsopoulos, N., Paninski, L. et al. Instant neural control of a movement signal. Nature 416, 141–142 (2002).

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