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Turning Thoughts Into Action
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The center of the BrainGate System is this tiny silicone chip. Barely the size of your thumb, this chip can read minds.

"I thought it was science fiction when I heard about it," says Dr. Jon Mukand.   Dr. Mukand is the principal investigator of the study and is getting ready to start human trials of the device right here in Rrhode Island. The BrainGate System was developed by Cyberkinetics, which is based in Foxboro, Massachusetts. It's the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

"It is such an innovative device that I think it holds immense potential for improving the quality of life of people with disabilities," says Dr. Mukand.

This is how it works: a small sensor is placed on the area of the brain responsible for movement. This sensor is connected to a pedestal attached to the head. This sensor records electrical signals from the brain and are then fed into a device that interprets them. The interpreted signals are then fed into a computer where the person's thoughts are used to move a cursor on a computer screen, essentially turning thoughts into action. But researchers say, if this works, the possibilities extend way beyond interaction with a computer.

"The level of independence that this device could potentially provide is simply a dream," says Dr. Mukand.

Like helping quadripelegics control wheelchairs, open and close doors, all with their own thoughts. The device has already been proven safe and relatively effective in monkeys. Sargent Rehabilitation Center in Warwick has agreed to be the pilot study site for the human trials that are set to begin next month. Cyberkinetics hopes to have initial study results by the end of the year. Sargent Rehab Center is currently recruiting for this study.

If you're interested in learning more about the Brain Gate System, you can call the sargent center at 886-6600. 

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