Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) acquire brain signals, analyze them, and translate them into commands that are relayed to output devices that carry out desired actions. BCIs do not use normal neuromuscular output pathways. The main goal of BCI is to replace or restore useful function to people disabled by neuromuscular disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, or spinal cord injury. From initial demonstrations of electroencephalography- based spelling and single-neuron-based device control, researchers have gone on to use electroencephalographic, intracortical, electrocorticographic, and other brain signals for increasingly complex control of cursors, robotic arms, prostheses, wheelchairs, and other devices. Brain-computer interfaces may also prove useful for rehabilitation after stroke and for other disorders. In the future, they might augment the performance of surgeons or other medical professionals. Brain-computer interface technology is the focus of a rapidly growing research and development enterprise that is greatly exciting scientists, engineers, clinicians, and the public in general. Its future achievements will depend on advances in 3 crucial areas. Brain-computer interfaces need signal-acquisition hardware that is convenient, portable, safe, and able to function in all environments. Brain-computer interface systems need to be validated in long-term studies of real-world use by people with severe disabilities, and effective and viable models for their widespread dissemination must be implemented. Finally, the day-to-day and moment-to-moment reliability of BCI performance must be improved so that it approaches the reliability of natural muscle-based function.
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