The first steps towards the discovery and eventual development of the Brain-Computer Interface( BCI) were taken early on, more exactly in 1924 when Hans Berger, a well-renowned German psychiatrist, first recorded human brain activity. The process, successfully conducted with the aid of electroencephalography, led to the conclusion that, when correctly used, the external stimuli are capable of influencing the brain waves and the organ’s overall activity.

In a nutshell, a Brain-Computer Interface can read individual electric signals responsible for the way people perceive colors, feel or hear. However, the entire mechanism might be even more revolutionary than that.

Numerous researchers have stated that, for those patients who are paralyzed or suffer from blindness and hearing problems, the interface might represent a chance to a better life. Moreover, new studies assert that it might even be beneficial in people showing early signs of aging, such as short-term memory loss or speaking issues. User intentions are believed to influence the electric waves, thus interfering with the device’s manner of action and making it suitable in such cases.

Image source: Reuters, Image of a quadriplegic woman controlling a robotic arm using an Invasive BCI system

A Brain-Computer Interface’s primary function is to translate the brain waves into commands and help patients perform common tasks that could otherwise be impossible to conduct.

In one 2011 research study, Dean Krusienski, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Old Dominion University, showed how brain signals obtained via encephalography could enable people to spell words on a computer screen by using a BCI. The project did not remain just another one in its field, quickly becoming a reference name among experts interested in the human brain’s potential and how the technological evolution would enhance it.

A 2006 study involved the implantation of a microelectrode array in the primary motor cortex of a patient suffering from quadriplegia. Leigh Hochberg, a researcher at the Brown University of Rhode Island and doctor Mijail Serruya from the Jefferson University, attached the array to a Brain-Computer Interface and offered the participant a prosthetic hand through which he could execute basic movements.

The experiment was successfully concluded, with the young man being able to move the robotic body extension with the brain waves’ help.

This might not sound like much, given that the expectations were probably higher.

However, as the journalist, Peter Pollack observed, “The researchers admit that they have a long way to go.” Moreover, he added that “Given its current rudimentary state(…) there seems to be a strong reason to believe that those who suffer from paralysis may see the light on the horizon.”

Science-fiction is but a term in our days. What a few years ago seemed like total madness is now a quickly becoming a natural part of our lives. Everyone, from the NASA experts to university professors and even High school students are more interested in this innovative mechanism called Brain-Computer Interface that could ease the physical and emotional suffering of so many people throughout the world.