Brain-machine interfaces: past, present and future

Trends Neurosci. 2006 Sep;29(9):536-46. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2006.07.004. Epub 2006 Jul 21.


Since the original demonstration that electrical activity generated by ensembles of cortical neurons can be employed directly to control a robotic manipulator, research on brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) has experienced an impressive growth. Today BMIs designed for both experimental and clinical studies can translate raw neuronal signals into motor commands that reproduce arm reaching and hand grasping movements in artificial actuators. Clearly, these developments hold promise for the restoration of limb mobility in paralyzed subjects. However, as we review here, before this goal can be reached several bottlenecks have to be passed. These include designing a fully implantable biocompatible recording device, further developing real-time computational algorithms, introducing a method for providing the brain with sensory feedback from the actuators, and designing and building artificial prostheses that can be controlled directly by brain-derived signals. By reaching these milestones, future BMIs will be able to drive and control revolutionary prostheses that feel and act like the human arm.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biofeedback, Psychology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Diseases / rehabilitation*
  • Computer Systems*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Microelectrodes
  • Prostheses and Implants
  • Self-Help Devices*
  • User-Computer Interface