Four adults quickly learned to play a simple video game—and win—by using only their thoughts to control the computer.

“It took six minutes of training and they all achieved control in less than 24 minutes,” said Eric Leuthardt, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Washington University in St. Louis. One player hit the target on every try.

“That’s what was most impressive,” said Whitaker investigator Daniel Moran, Ph.D., who collaborated with Leuthardt in the study. “The patients were getting good at it very quickly.”

The experiment, reported last month in the Journal of Neuroengineering, demonstrated how it may be possible to someday give disabled people a measure of self-sufficiency using though-controlled computer interfaces to accomplish such tasks as moving artificial limbs.

Previous human experiments along these lines have used electroencephalographic (EEG) signals taken from electrodes placed on the scalp. Animal studies have used single electrodes implanted in the brain. But EEG signals can suffer from noise, and electrode implants can move about and become walled off from the nerve cells they are trying to monitor.

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