Wyss Center team with ABILITY implant

An implantable brain-computer interface (BCI) to restore movement and communication

The Wyss Center is developing a fully implantable brain-computer interface (BCI) that can directly detect brain signals, and wirelessly transmit data through the scalp. The neural data is received by an external wearable device and then sent to a computer via a wired connection. The computer decodes the brain signals in real time to control assistive devices such as prosthetics or to integrate with voice or communication systems.

The system, called ABILITY which stands for Active Brain Implant Live Information Transfer sYstem, uses multiple channels to collect high-resolution brain data.

Our technology development efforts are focused on the following applications:  

  • Enabling communication with people ‘locked-in’ as a result of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), as part of the INTRECOM project with UMC Utrecht Brain Center (the Netherlands), Graz University of Technology (Austria) and CorTec (Germany)
  • Restoration of reach, grasp and walking in people following spinal cord injury or stroke
  • Exploring the potential for use in neuromodulation applications 


In numbers

channels of neural data
50 Mbits/s
broadband neural data sensing and transmission
in 2022
Preclinical trials with the implant
The active fully implantable ABILITY medical device is designed for long-term implantation.

The ABILITY platform

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Implant and connected electrodes
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ABILITY Data Processor ICON
Data processor
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Data visualization

At the center of the ABILITY platform is an active, fully implantable medical device, designed for long-term implantation. Its design brings together state-of-the-art know-how and engineering to achieve ‘firsts’ in the area of brain implantable devices. With innovative features such as high density hermetic feedthroughs and optical data transmission, ABILITY can record brain signals from 128 channels at 30000 samples/s. Battery-less operation and encapsulation in a protective housing with hermetic sealing and biocompatible materials will allow the implant to function in the body for years.

Patient In Chair V3

The implant can be connected to microelectrodes arrays, subdural ECoG grids, or other kinds of electrodes. Hermetic feedthroughs allow the wires from the electrodes to enter and connect to the implant, while keeping moisture away from the sensitive internal electronics.

Flexible Electrodes
left: subdural ECoG grids electrodes, right: Utah arrays electrodes

ABILITY enters preclinical trial

A preclinical trial has been performed with the ABILITY brain-computer interface system. The study, which has been carried out in sheep, is a crucial step towards development of a fully implantable device to enable applications such as communication and movement for people with paralysis. The trial has assessed the safety and feasibility of brain signal recording and wireless transfer of neural data to a wearable computer.

brain computer interface implant x-ray
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The ABILITY device and an X-ray view of the device when implanted.

The ABILITY wearable

ABILITY comprises implantable and wearable components. Here, the image on the left shows the printed circuit board layout of the USB adapter - part of the ABILITY wearable. The image on the right is the physical board used in the wearable. Components marked yellow and blue in the layout are deep, so not visible on the board.

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The central square - U5 - is the system coordinator. It is a field programable gate array (FPGA) that reads neural data recorded from implanted electrodes, manages the system’s power and communicates with the implant and the wearable components.

NeuroKey data processing software

The Wyss Center’s NeuroKey software is fully integrated with ABILITY. Developed as medical-grade software, the data analysis platform processes large amounts of information in real-time and enables rapid prototyping of clinical applications.

We collaborate with academic and clinical partners as well as a network of industrial technology partners.

Hopitaux Universitaires De Genve 2015 Logo

Epfl Logo

Umc Utrecht Logo Vector

Tu Graz

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Where I work: Neuroengineering Project Manager, Shenandoah Montamat

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Shenandoah leads the ABILITY project. Here she reveals her first invention and describes the shared dream of the ABILITY team.


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