BMI History and Development Timeline


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1980  Edward Schmidt first showed that single neuron recordings from the motor cortex could be a possible source of control of external devices.

1984 FDA approves first multi-channel cochlear implant for adults.

1986 Georgopoulos shows that motor-cortex neurons in macaque change their activity pattern depending on direction of arm movement.

1993 Harvey Box, able to filter and amplify neural signals from multiple electrodes, is developed.

1997 FDA approves deep brain stimulators to control motor disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

1997 FDA approves the Freehand System for quadriplegics. This device restores some basic arm and hand motions using chest muscles to transmit electrical movement signals to arm muscles.

1998 Neural Signals receives FDA clearance to implant neurotrophic electrodes into paralyzed patients for neural prosthetic purposes.

1999 Nicolelis reports lab rats can move lever that distributes drop of juice by thinking about moving arm to press lever.

2000 FDA approves Optobionics retinal prosthetic for clinical tests.

2001 John Donoghue co-founds Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems to develop Braingate Neural Interface System.

2002 Taylor and Schwartz publish paper on modification of Georgopoulos' population vector algorithm for extraction of neural activity.

2003 Miguel Nicolelis publishes new technique using high-density micro-wire array and multi-channel instrumentation, allowing larger number of electrodes to be implanted in the macaque brain.

2004 Richard Andersen exhibits new technology for extracting cognitive signals from the macaque brain.

As current breakthroughs in neuroscience continue to occur at a fast pace there is a strong expectation that BMIs will be commercially available within the next five years.  Heralding such powerful neural prosthetic devices are a few current implantable neural stimulators such as cochlear implants to restore hearing, deep brain stimulators to control motor disorders, and vagal nerve stimulators to treat chronic epilepsy.

At this time the only methods for extracting neural prosthetic control signals are electroencephalography (EEG) and implanted cortical electrode arrays. EEG methods do not require surgery but are inherently limited due to their low signal to noise ratio. Implanted cortical electrode arrays measure single-cell activity and have much greater signal to noise. For this reason this report focuses exclusively on implanted devices.

The field of neural prosthetics started in 1980 with Schmidt's proposition that extra-cellular neural activity can be decoded to control an eternal device.  Soon after, Georgopoulos, of John Hopkins University, published results of experiment that recorded activity of a single neuron from the motor cortex region of the brain showed optimum activity when the arm was moved in a specific direction.  This population vector method was further refined by Taylor. Advances in electrode array technology have also allowed larger numbers of neurons from different cortical regions to be recorded simultaneously, increasing the number of movement parameters that can be decoded at the same time.

In 1999, Philip Kennedy's Neural Signals implemented the Brain Communicator which uses a neurotrophic electrode, allowing locked-in patients to move computer cursor for communication.  Another option for the commercialized Brain Communicator is to implant a conductive skull screw using EEG that records the local field potentials over the surface of the cortex.



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