We are very excited to share some of the new projects awarded to our group on the topic of (implanted) Brain-Computer Interfaces! For a complete list of ongoing project check-out here.
In this project we will collaborate with the Wyss Center in Geneva, CorTec Neuro in Freiburg and TU Graz to develop novel, fully implantable BCI technology for communication in people with severe motor impairment. We will validate its functionality and usability with two people with severe motor impairment. For more details check here.
A likely cause for the long training duration of implanted SM-BCIs is a lack of somatosensory feedback. A closed motor-somatosensory feedback loop is known to be essential for learning new motor skills for the correct execution of movements able-bodied people. Many SM-BCIs apply a new, non-natural, mapping between brain activity (SM signal changes related to movement attempts) and the resulting action (typically a visually observed action on a computer screen). We hypothesize that adding somatosensory feedback to an implanted SM-BCI will facilitate BCI learning and improve BCI performance by generating a more natural relation between intent (movement attempt of a body part) and effect (sensation in the same body part). This somatosensory feedback can be delivered using electrical stimulation of the cortex (electrical cortical stimulation; ECS). With NOTION, we aim to develop an approach for providing ECS somatosensory feedback in an SM-BCI that is based on subdural electrocorticography (ECoG) electrodes. Voluntarily generated signal changes from the SM areas will be read with ECoG electrodes and converted into targeted ECS of the somatosensory cortex, applied using ECoG electrodes, as well as into conventional visual feedback (e.g., the selection of a word on a computer screen). Making use of the detailed spatial organisation of the motor and the somatosensory areas, we intend to accomplish a tight relation between attempted movement acts and relevant physical sensations in the expected body part, which will accompany the conventional visual feedback. If successful, users may perceive BCI training and control to be more natural and intuitive, which may lead to faster learning, better performance and an increased sense of usability.
Brain-computer interfaces & the disruption of the concept of personhood
The aim of this project is to answer the following research question: “How do BCIs disrupt assumptions about where and how we can (or even should) demarcate something as ontologically and ethically significant as personhood?” As a secondary objective, the project will contribute to new interdisciplinary approaches and methods at the intersection of STEM disciplines and ethics/philosophy. Moreover, insights gained from the project are likely to ethically inform the ongoing design of current and future BCI technologies. This project is part of the ESDIT consortium.