New Scientist | Less invasive mind control system for prosthetics

February 25, 2011

New Scientist | A model helps to visualize how a new neural implant device reads brain signals and interprets them to control a prosthetic arm. The yellow spikes represent firing motor neurons in the brain. Each neuron is tuned to recognize a different direction in space, so as the arm moves, the spikes change to reflect the changing direction. By combining the output of all the neurons, the direction of the arm’s movement — represented by the blue arrow — can be predicted.

This system, developed by Daniel Moran of Washington University in St. Louis, uses a grid of disc-shaped electrodes, inserted between the brain and the skull, to read electrical activity in the brain. It’s more precise than electrodes placed outside of the skull but less invasive than probes inserted directly in the brain. The system could eventually give amputees better control over prosthetic limbs without overly invasive surgical implants.