Proyecto BRAINS
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BRAINS. Brain interaction system for disabled people

Project summary

People suffering from a number of psychological diseases can present great motor disabilities. In some cases, the motor deficiencies can be really severe, to the point of losing the muscles that control voluntary body movements, including eye movement and breathing itself. People suffering from such deficiencies lose any possibility of communication with the external world, being the only possible alternative giving the brain a new non-muscular channel that enables those people to send messages and orders to the external world. Such a system is known as a brain-computer interface.

One of the characteristics of this kind of interfaces is they are able to determine a mental state from the available electroencephalographic (EEG) signals, thus providing the subject with a minimum communication alphabet. In order to achieve this task with a certain degree of success, it is necessary that the subject can reliably generate the same electroencephalogra phic pattern according to her intentions, making it necessary to perform an adequate training that in some cases can extend for months, and being essential to provide some kind of feedback that allows the subject to know his evolution.

Doubtlessly, scientific data prove that a brain-computer interface is a system that can greatly improve the quality of life of some of its users- people without a possibility to communicate-, being one of the most immediate and priority objectives of these interfac es. Nevertheless, this handicap can highly complicate the initial operation of the BCI system, which consists on a learning phase and a control one.

In relation to these systems, the scientific community is performing a great research effort to develop two specific applications. One that enables the subjects to drive a wheelchair with their EEG signals, offering them a greater autonomy, and other one that enables them to control a virtual keyboard, offering them an option of communication with t he external world.

There are two important limitations in these applications. One of them is the need to carry out a long training in order to achieve a certain control on the EEG signals, which can lead many subjects to abandon and give up using these systems. Another of the limitations refers to the available bandwidth or binary rate, which forces to pick the commands from a virtual keyboard at quite reduced speeds.

In this project, the proposed objectives intend to tackle these two limitations. On the one hand, we intend to increase the efficiency in the training of the BCI systems with more attractive feedbacks, which provide greater motivation for the subjects and, on the other, increasing the available bandwidth in current BCI systems. In order to achieve these objectives, we will make use of the advantages of virtual reality-based techniques.

Besides, we intend to develop two specific applications, which will be very valuable for the main recipients of these systems.< /p>

  • An application that enables a patient to operate a wheelchair in a safe and controlled environment. There is currently no application of this type, in spite of its necessity. With this application the patients would be given a very valuable tool to practice in virtual environments that in real situations would entail a great danger.

  • A virtual keyboard, with a high bandwidth, that enables a patient to write words at a higher speed than the currently existing virtual keyboards .
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