Researchers reconstruct 3-D hand movement using brain signals

March 2, 2010
The reaching apparatus used to study the finger paths from a center button to eight other buttons in random order. While volunteers touched the buttons, researchers recorded their brain signals and hand motions. Afterward, the researchers attempted to decode the signals and reconstruct the 3-D hand movements. Credit: Courtesy, with permission: Bradberry et al. The Journal of Neuroscience 2010.

Researchers have successfully reconstructed 3-D hand motions from brain signals recorded in a non-invasive way, according to a study in the March 3 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. This finding uses a technique that may open new doors for portable brain-computer interface systems. Such a non-invasive system could potentially operate a robotic arm or motorized wheelchair -- a huge advance for people with disabilities or paralysis.

Until now, to reconstruct hand motions, researchers have used non-portable and invasive methods that place sensors inside the brain. In this study, a team of neuroscientists led by José Contreras-Vidal, PhD, of the University of Maryland, College Park, placed an array of sensors on the scalps of five participants to record their brains' electrical activity, using a process called electroencephalography, or EEG. Volunteers were asked to reach from a center button and touch eight other buttons in random order 10 times, while the authors recorded their brain signals and hand motions. Afterward, the researchers attempted to decode the signals and reconstruct the 3-D hand movements.

"Our results showed that electrical brain activity acquired from the scalp surface carries enough information to reconstruct continuous, unconstrained hand movements," Contreras-Vidal said.

The researchers found that one sensor in particular (of the 34 used) provided the most accurate information. The sensor was located over a part of the brain called the primary sensorimotor cortex, a region associated with voluntary movement. Useful signals were also recorded from another region called the inferior parietal lobule, which is known to help guide limb movement. The authors used these findings to confirm the validity of their methods.

This study has implications for future brain-computer interface technologies and for those already in existence. "It may eventually be possible for people with severe neuromuscular disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, or spinal cord injury, to regain control of complex tasks without needing to have electrodes implanted in their brains," said Jonathan Wolpaw, MD, of the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center in Albany, who was unaffiliated with the study. "The paper enhances the potential value of EEG for laboratory studies and clinical monitoring of brain function."

The findings could also help improve existing EEG-based systems designed to allow movement-impaired people to control a computer cursor with just their thoughts. These systems now require that users undergo extensive training sessions. Contreras-Vidal said the length of this training could be reduced and more effortless control achieved using the methods in this study.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Discovery deepens understanding of brain's sensory circuitry

December 12, 2017
Because they provide an exemplary physiological model of how the mammalian brain receives sensory information, neural structures called "mouse whisker barrels" have been the subject of study by neuroscientists around the ...

Intermittent fasting found to increase cognitive functions in mice

December 12, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—The Daily Mail spoke with the leader of a team of researchers with the National Institute on Aging in the U.S. and reports that they have found that putting mice on a diet consisting of eating nothing every ...

Neuroscientists show deep brain waves occur more often during navigation and memory formation

December 12, 2017
UCLA neuroscientists are the first to show that rhythmic waves in the brain called theta oscillations happen more often when someone is navigating an unfamiliar environment, and that the more quickly a person moves, the more ...

Stuttering: Stop signals in the brain disturb speech flow

December 12, 2017
One per cent of adults and five per cent of children are unable to achieve what most of us take for granted—speaking fluently. Instead, they struggle with words, often repeating the beginning of a word, for example "G-g-g-g-g-ood ...

How Zika virus induces congenital microcephaly

December 12, 2017
Epidemiological studies show that in utero fetal infection with the Zika virus (ZIKV) may lead to microcephaly, an irreversible congenital malformation of the brain characterized by an incomplete development of the cerebral ...

Selecting sounds: How the brain knows what to listen to

December 11, 2017
How is it that we are able—without any noticeable effort—to listen to a friend talk in a crowded café or follow the melody of a violin within an orchestra?

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

poof
not rated yet Mar 02, 2010
So about how long until im able to use this for hands free masturbation?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.