An Implanted Brain-computer Interface for ALS Patients

2019 Seed Grant
Kai Miller, M.D., Ph.D.
Mayo Clinic

Implanted brain-computer interfaces (BCls) recently made the jump from a tool requiring a custom hardware setup at the bedside and the full-time assistance of a scientist, to a small off-the-shelf implant that can be used independently to control programs on a tablet without assistance. This device, developed in Utrecht, The Netherlands, allows locked-in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to perform simple “clicks” or cursor-control in one dimension. I will use emerging technology to build a more sophisticated BCI device, which will allow for simultaneous 2-dimensional cursor movement and a click, using the fine structural representation of individual fingers in the hand movement area of the brain. My research will begin by characterizing the high-field MRI (7-Tesla) of the hand region during finger movement in healthy individuals, ALS patients, and pre-operative neurosurgical patients. In the neurosurgical patients, the electrical signals from hand area will be compared with these high-field MRI representation to identify the best signal features from motor cortex for different sizes of electrodes. Armed with this knowledge, I will implement a device to give ALS patients two-dimensional cursor control and click for control­ling an interface with intended movements. My team will then implement this device with ALS patients during a clinical trial based at Mayo. 

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