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An implantable brain-computer interface 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 through the scalp without the need of any percutaneous component. The neural data is received by an external wearable device then transmitted 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, will use multiple channels to collect high-resolution brain data that are needed to effectively restore communication, movement and independence for people with disabilities. 

Our technology development efforts are currently focused on the following applications:  

• Restoring reach and grasp in tetraplegia and stroke patients, in collaboration with Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG)

• Enabling communication with people ‘locked-in’ as a result of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), in collaboration with Utrecht University

• Restoring walking in patients following spinal cord injury, in collaboration with École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV)

• Exploring the potential for use in neuromodulation applications 

The ABILITY platform

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 numerous ‘firsts’ in the area of brain implantable devices. An exceptionally high channel count allows high resolution recording of brain signals while secure wireless transmission of broadband neural data (30 Mbits/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. The implant is similar in size to a cochlear implant and can be implanted with a simple subcutaneous procedure. 

The active implant is currently connected to two tiny arrays of microelectrodes that continuously record neural signals from the surface of the cortex. Hermetic feedthroughs allow the wires from the microelectrodes to enter and connect to the implant, while keeping moisture away from the sensitive internal electronics.

The device is also designed to be flexibly connected to a variety of other electrode technologies such as ECoG, our Epios electrodes, and flexible, stretchable and customizable arrays. 

Feedthroughs allow wires that carry brain signals to pass into implantable neuro-devices while keeping moisture away from the sensitive internal electronics.

Implant Dark
Implant and connected electrodes
Data Processor
Data processor
Data Visualisation
Data visualization

ABILITY data processing software: NeuroKey

The high-performance data analysis software is capable of processing large amounts of information in real-time. Developed as medical software in accordance to IEC 62304, NeuroKey has been designed to allow fast prototyping and development of ABILITY applications.

User Friendly: A graphical block diagramming tool that allows the user to select and interconnect different signal processing, feature extraction and classification blocks.

Modularity: Complex algorithms can be divided into smaller blocks, allowing researchers and algorithm developers to quickly build, test, and deploy new processing pipelines, while benefiting from tight control on timing and resource use.

Flexibility: A framework is provided to easily implement custom processing blocks and integrate them into the ecosystem.

Compatibility: The software is potentially compatible with any commercial or custom-made hardware, sensors and actuators. 

Data Integration: Capable of interfacing with multiple data acquisition devices and sources simultaneously and in a scalable, synchronized way.

Developers API: Allows controlled and secure access to all data generated within processing pipelines at every block in real-time. 

In numbers

channels of neural data
30 Mbits/s
broadband neural data sensing and transmission
first human trials planned for the NeuroKey software
first human trials planned for the entire system

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

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