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Brain-Computer Interfaces and Technologies

(Stanford University - Jaclyn Chen)

- Overview

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) represent a groundbreaking fusion of neuroscience and technology. These remarkable systems bridge the gap between the human brain and external devices, enabling direct communication and control. 


- Brain-inspired Computing

Brain-inspired computing (BIC) is a research field that aims to create models, theories, and hardware architectures to improve artificial intelligence (AI). BIC does this by learning from the information processing mechanisms of biological nervous systems. 

One idea behind BIC is neuromorphic computing, which is designing computer chips that combine processing and memory. In the brain, synapses provide direct memory access to the neurons that process information. Neuromorphic computing uses artificial neurons and synapses to process data in a similar way to the human brain. 

It relies on parallel processing, allowing multiple tasks to be handled simultaneously. It also has an adaptable nature that enables real-time learning and low-latency decision-making. 

The goal of BIC is to create powerful computing machines that can learn from available data to provide satisfactory answers to problems such as:  

  • Visual image processing
  • Pattern/voice recognition
  • Language

- Brain-Computer Interface

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are computer-based systems that allow people to control machines using their thoughts. BCIs work by recording brain signals, analyzing them, and translating them into commands that are sent to an output device.

BCIs can help people with disabilities, such as those with severe motor impairments. They can also help people recover from strokes, spinal cord injuries, and other neurological trauma. For example, a BCI could allow a warfighter to operate a drone hands-free on the battlefield. 

BCIs can record from the nervous system, provide input directly to the nervous system, or do both. Some examples of BCIs include:

  • Passive BCI: A type of BCI that generates signals independently of the nervous system. This can be beneficial for people with severe motor disabilities.
  • Sensory BCIs: Such as cochlear implants, which have already had notable clinical success. 
  • Motor BCIs: Have shown great promise for helping patients with severe motor deficits.


One disadvantage of BCIs is that they record brain responses that can be inconsistent with time and situations. This can have a big impact on the results provided by each method.


[More to come ...]

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