A 65 year old man had electrodes implanted on the surface of his brain that could project his thoughts on a screen. Unable to use his hands due to paralysis from the neck down, he imagined writing softly on a paper. The electrodes then read the electrical activity on the part of the brain that controls hand movements.
He was able to imagine and produce about 15 words per minute which appeared on screen and researchers say that's about the average typing speed on a smartphone for people his age group.
A major part of brain computer interface (BCI) technology has been about restoring gross motor skills such as reaching and grasping with a neutrally controlled robotic arm. Researchers believe that BCI on fine motor skills like handwriting is a faster means of communication.
Using a recurrent neural network decoding approach, the BCI decodes attempted handwriting movements from the neural activity in the motor cortex and gives a real time translation on screen.
One of the researchers in the study, Krishna Shenoy says it came as a surprise that this BCI worked on the subject even after years of having the injury. She says after years of not being about to use hands or fingers, the electrical activity can still be read. This ofcourse would be a breakthrough for those who are disabled.
Journal reference: Nature