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“Brain Cap” Turns Your Thoughts Into Motion

Designed by José ‘Pepe’ L. Contreras-Vidal, an associate professor of kinesiology, the noninvasive, sensor-lined cap could soon harness brain waves to control computers, prosthetic limbs, motorized wheelchairs, and even digital avatars. At present, however, Conteras-Vidal and his team are focusing on helping the paralyzed or disabled extend their range of motion. “We are doing something that few previously thought was possible,” says Conteras-Vidal.

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The “Brain cap” fits snugly over the head and uses electroencephalography (better known as “EEG”) to read brain waves. Those readings are analyzed while a person walks on a treadmill or performs some other activity to determine how the brain fires during specific movements. Over the past 18 months, Contreras-Vidal and company have published three papers, including one in the Journal of Neurophysiology, that demonstrates how EEG brain signals can reconstruct the complex movements of the ankle, knee, and hip joints of a person in motion.

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