The BrainGate Neural Interface System is a cutting-edge technology platform that enables people who are completely paralyzed to move objects using only their thoughts. Dr. Oz talks with neurobiologist John Donoghue, a professor at Brown University and one of the leading innovators behind this technology, about how BrainGate works and what the future holds for the system.
Developed by John and his company, Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, BrainGate is a neurotechnological device that connects the brain to the outside world using a tiny chip about the size of a baby-size aspirin. The chip, covered in tiny hairs that go into the surface of the brain, picks up signals the brain would normally use to control the limbs. The intentions of the user are then decoded and converted into computer commands. In this way, a patient can move a cursor, point and click using without moving a muscle—just their thoughts, John says.
John says BrainGate is already making an impact by allowing patients to perform otherwise impossible tasks such as reading e-mail or changing channels on their TVs. He says research is under way to connect brain signals to a person's own muscles or robotic limbs. In five years time, he hopes the technology will enable someone unable to move his arms to drink a glass of water unassisted.
John says scientists also hope to someday be able to rewire and recreate the entire nervous system from the brain back to the whole body so that a person with a spinal cord injury would be able to move just as he had before his injury. "Fairly certain we won't see that in our lifetime, but, certainly, we're making the baby steps toward that kind of a goal," John says. "And, it provides us with a whole new way of thinking about treating these kinds of devastating [conditions]."