Extracting motor signals from the spinal cord
Since the 1970s, a brain-computer interface — technology that uses neural signals to communicate with electronic devices — has been pursued as a way to restore function in people with disabilities.
These disabilities may result from injuries to the central nervous system, such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and stroke. Despite years of research, significant challenges remain.
In search of a solution, Mesut Sahin, a pioneer in the field of neural engineering and chief investigator at NJIT’s Neural Prosthetics Laboratory, is studying the spinal cord as an alternative site for an electronic interface. Dr. Sahin’s research seeks to extract volitional motor signals from an area of the spinal cord above the site of injury. In recent animal studies, he and his colleagues have succeeded in not only capturing brain signals from the cervical spinal cord, but showing the signals’ correlation to limb movements.
Another line of research by Dr. Sahin and his colleagues in the Neural Prosthetics Lab is the use of electrodes and alternative methods to stimulate the airway muscles of people suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that affects up to 6 percent of the world’s population.