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Brain-Computer Interface Used For Twitter Post

In early April, doctoral student Adam Wilson posted a "tweet" on the social networking Web site Twitter, using an experimental system that allows use of EEG as input to a standard computer. A system similar to this might be used in the future by people with severe disabilities, enabling them to use a computer for communication and social interaction. Potential beneficiaries include people with locked-in syndrome, ALS, brain-stem stroke, or high spinal cord injury.

The brain-computer interface employs an electrode-studded cap wired to the computer. The electrodes detect electrical signals in the brain and translate them into physical actions, such as a cursor motion on a computer screen. "We started thinking that moving a cursor on a screen is a good scientific exercise," says UW-Madison Assistant Professor Justin Williams, Wilson's advisor and a Trace Center affiliate. "But when we talk to people who have locked-in syndrome or a spinal cord injury, their No. 1 concern is communication." He hopes the Twitter application is the nudge researchers need to refine development of this technology.

Wilson and other members of the team have been housed and supported by the Trace Center, with partial funding of an earlier study provided by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research as part of the RERC on Universal Interface and Information Technology Access.

For more information on this work, including a video of Wilson using the brain-computer interface to post to Twitter, visit the Neural Interface Technology Research and Optimization (NITRO) Lab.

Posted at 2:37 PM on April 23, 2009.