In tests, four volunteers wearing a “thinking cap” showed they could move a cursor across a computer screen in complex ways using willpower alone.

The findings could pave the way for new methods of controlling robot limbs simply by thinking. Previous experiments with brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) had suggested that good results could only be obtained by implanting electrodes inside the brain.

But the new technique is non-invasive. Brain waves are recorded by 64 electrodes attached to the scalp, which provide the input that allows the cursor to move.

The system is adaptive, modifying itself to react to the particular brain wave patterns that an individual is best able to control. In this way both user and machine learn from experience together.

The two American scientists who carried out the study

were able to show that the creation of cursor-controlling brain signals did not depend on making muscle contractions. The system therefore had potential value for people who were totally paralysed.

More here.