MSE Research Project Database

Next generation brain-machine interface: Minimally-Invasive electrode array for robotic limb control


Project Leader: David Grayden
Staff: David Grayden, Anthony Burkitt, Sam John
Student: Thomas Oxley
Collaborators: Nicholas Opie (Medicine), Gil Rind (Medicine), Stephen Davis (Royal Melbourne Hospital), Clive May (Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health), Peter Mitchell (Melbourne Health), Malcolm Horne (Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health)
Sponsors: National Health and Medical Research Council, Defence Health Foundation, USA Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Primary Contact: David Grayden (grayden@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: biosignals; brain; brain-machine interface; electroencephalogram EEG; medical bionics
Disciplines: Biomedical Engineering,Electrical & Electronic Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences

Loss of limb function occurs with a variety of conditions leading to significant disability. Stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic limb amputation can all lead to limb failure. A majority of these patients retain a normal functioning motor cortex. This brain tissue holds capacity for complex motor control, but has no means of neural signal transmission. The current gold standard brain machine interface comprises an invasive electrode array, inserted directly into the motor cortex via craniotomy. A human clinical trial has demonstrated capacity to reach and grasp with imagined thought, using a robotic limb. However, implantation requires major brain surgery, and significant signal degradation occurs at six months due to various factors.

We hypothesise that a novel, minimally-invasive neural interface can be fabricated that is capable of recording and transmitting meaningful neural signal from the motor cortex, without chronic signal deterioration.

Aims:
1. Establish methods that allow access to motor cortex.
2. Fabricate a robust electrode array.
3. Preclinical Trials: Demonstrate biocompatibility and safety of device.
4. Preclinical Trials: Record and stimulate motor cortex.
5. Human Pilot Clinical Trial: Implant electrode array and record motor cortical activity.

This pioneering, world-first project collaborates across nine departments of the University of Melbourne including Medicine, Electrical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Anatomy, Neurology, Radiology, Neurosurgery and Florey Institute of Neuroscience. The significance of demonstration of proof of principle may represent a paradigm shift in neural interfacing, and a new therapy in a previously untreatable group of patients.