A brain–computer interface (BCI), often called a mind-machine interface (MMI), or sometimes called a direct neural interface or a brain–machine interface (BMI), is a direct communication pathway between the brain and an external device. BCIs are often directed at assisting, augmenting, or repairing human cognitive or sensory-motor functions.
Research on BCIs began in the 1970s at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) under a grant from the National Science Foundation, followed by a contract from DARPA. The papers published after this research also mark the first appearance of the expression brain–computer interface in scientific literature.
The field of BCI research and development has since focused primarily on neuroprosthetics applications that aim at restoring damaged hearing, sight and movement. Thanks to the remarkable cortical plasticity of the brain, signals from implanted prostheses can, after adaptation, be handled by the brain like natural sensor or effector channels. Following years of animal experimentation, the first neuroprosthetic devices implanted in humans appeared in the mid-1990s.
HistoryThe history of brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) starts with Hans Berger's discovery of the electrical activity of the human brain and the development of electroencephalography (EEG). In 1924 Berger was the first to record human brain activity by means of EEG. By analyzing EEG traces, Berger was able to identify oscillatory activity in the brain, such as the alpha wave (8–12 Hz), also known as Berger's wave.
Berger's first recording device was very rudimentary. He inserted silver wires under the scalps of his patients. These were later replaced by silver foils attached to the patients' head by rubber bandages. Berger connected these sensors to a Lippmann capillary electrometer, with disappointing results. More sophisticated measuring devices, such as the Siemens double-coil recording galvanometer, which displayed electric voltages...
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