Hold that thought

1 min read

How neurological brainwave computer interfaces are being used to help people with disability control their external environments. By Mike Richardson.

It was only a matter of time before some brilliant scientists and engineers put on their collective thinking caps in order to discover new and easier ways of making contact with the computer. But who would have thought that a computer would be able to pick our brains and react according to the stimulus? For the handicapped – unable to speak or use a mouse or keyboard – the solution of thought transmission is a ‘given’. After all, computers are just a loose approximation of the human brain – a mass of interconnected cells linked to the rest of the body through the nervous system. Each time we want to move a muscle, a spike of electricity is produced in the brain which transmits the information to the muscle, making it move. Currently, interfacing with a computer is accomplished via devices that can be worn on the head – a special cap containing electrical sensors or a lightweight device that rests over the vocal chords. Electrical impulses created by our thoughts are amplified, digitised and translated by software into functions that control the computer. Both solutions have attracted worldwide interest because of their considerable potential in providing those with severe physical disabilities and diseases of the central nervous system control over electrical equipment in their homes, offices and workplaces.