Brain-machine interfaces: moving towards independent living for the severely disabled
Grant, Michael A.
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The brain-machine interface (BMI) is an exciting new class of device in the field of biomedical engineering that shows great promise for the rehabilitation of persons with paralysis by recording neural signals and translating them into movement of objects such as prosthetics and computer cursors. This study aims to present a brief history of the devices including the three main methods of recording neural signals as well as some of the functions possible with BMIs and their basic design. It will also provide insight into some of the technical challenges currently preventing BMIs from widespread use for rehabilitative therapy including, but not limited to, signal degradation and a lack of design consensus. This study will also give examples of exciting new methods that are being considered for integration into the BMI world such as functional electrical stimulation and optogenetics as well as providing some examples of currently available commercial BMIs that are on the market. The study will conclude with a discussion of what needs to be done in order for BMIs to eventually enable paralyzed persons to live independently. A hypothetical scenario is depicted that highlights some of the factors that will need to be considered in order to allow a paralyzed person to fully rely on their BMI. Finally, a discussion of the ethical implications of BMIs are presented including how BMIs should be implemented with children as there is currently no research on that subject. Pediatric adoption of cochlear implants is used as an example of a similar technology that has already been widely accepted for public use despite lingering ethical concerns.
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