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XJTU helps make 'brain control' reality

April 07, 2024
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A staff member uses his brain to control the drone.

Through industrial and technological innovation, many futuristic scenarios that once seemed out of reach are now becoming a reality, such as utilizing the brain to control the take-off and landing of drones.

In Western China Science and Technology Innovation Harbour of Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU), a staff member wears a cap filled with sensors, activating the brain-controlled active-passive collaborative rehabilitation training system. With his eyes on the large screen displaying a virtual character's movements, the staff member observes the circular "steady-state visual evoked potential stimulation map" behind the character. The impaired limbs move synchronously with the virtual character's limbs, assisted by an intelligent robotic hand, to begin rehabilitation exercises. The system also synchronously records various types of physical function data pertaining to the rehabilitation trainee to assess training effectiveness.

Another laboratory staff member wears a cap covered with electrodes, observing multiple directions on a computer screen displaying "visual evoked potential stimulation maps." The maps along with images captured by a video camera on a drone enable the staff member to control the drone by using his mind and eyes without the use of a phone or remote controller.

Professor Xu Guanghua, director of the Institute of Medical Engineering and Interdisciplinary Research at XJTU, said that the human brain contains over 100 billion neurons, with each neuron connected to hundreds or even thousands of other neurons through synapses, which gives rise to unparalleled cognitive abilities in humans. During cognitive activities, corresponding changes in electrical signals occur within neurons and cells in the brain. These brainwave signals, when effectively collected, provide the technological support necessary for the implementation of brain-computer interaction techniques and ultimately allow for "brain control."

Professor Xu, who has been engaged in brain-computer interface technology research for over 20 years, explained that BCI, commonly known as "brain control" technology, involves capturing brainwave signals through a brain-machine interface to achieve human-machine interaction. The brain-machine interface serves as a pathway connecting humans and machines.

In recent years, leveraging the research achievements of the institute, companies have been incubated. Rehabilitation systems and devices based on brain-computer interaction have benefited patients and people with disabilities.