Researchers at Duke University have found in their first human studies that arrays of electrodes can provide useable brain signals for controlling external devices.

The research team is now working to develop prototype devices that may enable paralyzed people to operate “neuroprosthetic” and other external devices using only their brain signals.

While the new studies provide an initial proof of principle that human application of brain-machine interfaces is possible, the researchers say that many years of development and clinical testing will be required before such neuroprosthetic devices are available.

The research team, led by neurosurgeon and professor of neurobiology Dennis Turner, and neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis, will publish their results in the July 2004 issue of the journal Neurosurgery.

Principal members of the research team also include Parag Patil, a resident in neurosurgery and lead author of the study, and Jose Carmena, a post-doctoral fellow in neurobiology.

The research was supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Institutes of Health.