SALT LAKE CITY (February 21, 2017) – A team led by two researchers from Stanford University recently reported a breakthrough powered by Blackrock Microsystems’ technology: The scientists implanted a brain-computer-interface (BCI) that enabled three patients with severe limb weakness to type via direct brain control at the highest speeds and accuracy levels reported to date. Participants demonstrated typing up to 40 characters per minute (6-8 words per minute) faster by a factor of 3 over what has been shown before.
“What the researchers have done is ground-breaking, they have given a voice to people with paralysis,” says Florian Solzbacher, Co-Founder of Blackrock Microsystems and a Professor at the University of Utah. The researchers have been working with Blackrock equipment for a long time. For this specific research project the scientists implanted the Utah Array into the brains of three patients with severely weakened limbs — two from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and one from a spinal cord injury. The Utah Array is a tiny silicon chip that can record electrical activity of individual nerve cells in the brain. With its 100 electrodes on a baby-aspirin-sized surface, the Utah Array makes it possible to acquire high-density recordings from the brain and is therefore the basis for the newest generation of BCIs.
The Utah Array is a 4mm x 4mm silicon chip that can record the activity of individual neurons in the brain. “We are very proud that the Utah Array is uniquely positioned with FDA 510(k) marketing clearance, and has been featured in several high profile investigational device studies such as those led by the BrainGate consortium” said Blackrock founder Florian Solzbacher. The Utah Array records signals from individual nerve cells in the motor cortex, a region of the brain controlling muscle movement. With the help of Blackrock’s Patient Cable, these signals are transmitted to Blackrock’s NeuroPort Biopotential Signal Processing system. The NeuroPort system enables researchers to translate the signals from the brain into point-and-click commands guiding a cursor to characters on an onscreen keyboard.
Florian Solzbacher adds: “We are looking forward to participating in future breakthroughs of our customers, for example with our wireless neural recording equipment and innovative electrode designs.”