New brainwave gadget could help free the disabled

Russian scientists have come up with a device which could allow people to control their environment through the power of brainwaves. The new invention gives great hope to those who have lost control of their muscles.

Imagine living life trapped in your own body – unable to move, unable to speak. This is reality for many people who have survived strokes, injured their spines, or suffered other damage to their nervous systems.

But hope may be in sight, thanks to emerging research in Moscow.

“By imagining the movement of the left hand, the patient can make the lights switch on, or by imagining the movement of the right hand, he can learn to switch the TV set on. Since we take the signal right from the brain, this functions potentially even in cases when the patient can’t move his hands at all, when the muscle activity is zero,” says Vadim Roshin, research officer from the Russian Academy of Science.

Aleksandr Kaplan at Moscow State University is developing devices that use the brain’s basic electrical signals to control machines that can help – but he thinks they can do much more.

In one basic program, sensors read the brain’s impulses and send the message to a computer, in this case working to put a puzzle game together. Currently, there are several teams across the globe working on this.

Kaplan’s focus is on increasing the machine’s efficiency, with the goal of introducing this technology for everyday use.

“The main thing is you can use your thoughts directly, without using your muscles. Why use your muscles if you can do the same with just your thoughts? Why do you need to press a button if you have the thought in your brain already? This is the essence of brain-computer interface. We decipher electrical activity and send instructions directly, bypassing muscles,” explains Prof. Aleksandr Kaplan.

The equipment is expensive and the technology is still years from mainstream use. Also, the headwear might not be the best-looking in the world.

However, they promise that, as the technology develops, they will work on something that looks a little bit better. And fashion may be a small price to pay for somebody to be able to interact with the world around them.