U-M scientists create tech to harness brain's electricity

Scientists at the University of Michigan's School of Kinesiology have created technology that allows people to measure electrical brain activity, a breakthrough that might have impact on a broad range of things, ranging from enhancing a soldier's athletic ability to helping overcome paralysis.

U-M researchers teamed up with colleagues from the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego to develop the technology. It can be used for brain-computer interfaces that would allow a robotic exoskeleton controlled by a patient's thoughts to move that patient's limb without breaking the skin.

"It has shown that it is feasible to watch the electricity in people's brains without being invasive," says Daniel Ferris, associate professor in the U-M School of Kinesiology and co-principal investigator for the project. "We can see the signals in people's brains, record them, and decode them."

The technology allows scientists to show which parts of the brain are activated and precisely when they are activated as subjects move in a natural environment. When scientists understand where in the brain impulses occur, they can use that geographic information for many different applications. Previously, scientists could only measure electrical brain activity on stationary patients.

The military is also interested in this type of technology, which could be used to optimize soldier performance by monitoring the brain activity of soldiers in the field to know when soldiers are performing at their peak. It could also help the military understand how information can be best presented and handled by soldiers.

Source: Daniel Ferris, associate professor in the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology
Writer: Jon Zemke

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