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The original wireless device was developed in the lab of Brown's Arto Nurmikko. (Credit: Brown University)

For the first time, BrainGate clinical trial participants with tetraplegia have demonstrated use of an intracortical wireless BCI with an external wireless transmitter. The system is capable of transmitting brain signals at single-neuron resolution and in full broadband fidelity without physically tethering the user to a decoding system.

The traditional cables are replaced by a small transmitter about 2 in. in its largest dimension and weighing a little over 1.5 oz. The unit sits on top of a user’s head and connects to an electrode array within the brain’s motor cortex using the same port used by wired systems.

Two clinical trial participants with paralysis used the BrainGate system with a wireless transmitter to point, click and type on a standard tablet computer. The study showed that the wireless system transmitted signals with virtually the same fidelity as wired systems, and participants achieved similar point-and-click accuracy and typing speeds.

The researchers say the study represents an early but important step toward a major objective in BCI research: a fully implantable intracortical system that aids in restoring independence for people who have lost the ability to move.