Tech brain implant reads man's mind

Paralysed man controls his PC and TV using thought alone

Paralysed man controls his PC and TV using thought alone

Cybernetics - the fusion of human beings and technology - is helping one paralysed man control his environment by connecting his brain to his PC.

Quadriplegic ex-American football player Matthew Nagle is using a system that converts his thoughts into actions on a computer. Nagle's brain is connected to his computer by the BrainGate system, which thought impulses using a sensor implanted in the motor cortex of his brain.

The impulses, transmitted by 100 1mm long electrodes implanted in his brain, are converted into on-screen cursor movements that enable the 25-year-old to play computer games and open email. The on-screen cursor is directed by Nagle's brain activity - when he thinks of the cursor moving left, the BrainGate system recognises the pattern and moves the cursor accordingly.

As well as his PC, Nagle can change channels and alter the volume on his TV.

Nagle had the pioneering surgery last year following a knife attack that left him paralysed. Now, neuroscientists monitoring his progress hope he will soon be able to use the system to control other devices including electric wheelchairs.

The technology is in its pilot phase. Four more volunteers are needed before the BrainGate system can go on the market.

Other academics are already working on the possibilities of cybernetics to overcome physical disabilities. Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at Reading University, has recently conducted experiments to connect his nervous system to a PC using an RFID implant in his arm.