What is a Brain Computer Interface?

A brain computer interface (BCI) is a device that enables people with cognitive or motor limitations to control computers and other devices. BCIs translate brain signals with a variety sensors and recording techniques, a signal-processing algorithm and machine learning. They are able to operate a broad range of devices, ranging from cursors on computers to robotic arms and wheelchairs.

Most BCIs measure activity from the scalp, such as electroencephalographic (EEG) or functional near-infrared imaging (fNIRS) signaling. The signals are captured by a sensor that detects the activity of neurons. Software then converts them into operating commands.

In many BCI systems users have to undergo a process of instruction to produce signals that the system can recognize. For example, in a BCI that is designed to type letters, the user has to imagine moving his or her left or right hand.

The most exciting BCI innovations involve implantable or noninvasive systems that record directly from the neural tissue, not the scalp. These devices are more precise than non-invasive BCIs however they require surgery and come with some risks.

Invasive BCIs are still very experimental and it is crucial that patients who undergo this procedure understand the risks and benefits of this procedure. Privacy and data security are also major concerns, since BCIs read neural signals that could be containing sensitive health or behavioral information. Some people navigate to this site do not like the technology based on ethical concerns as they fear that others could hack into their minds and take control of them.