On September 16, the International Forum on “Neurotechnology for Mass Populations” hosted by the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute (TCCI) featured five renowned scientists from China, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and Singapore who shared their insights and perspectives on this topic for more than four hours with an online audience of nearly 520,000 people. A Q&A session during the forum fostered vibrant discussions between the speakers and audiences.
At the conference, Professor Gerwin Schalk, director of the Chen Frontier Lab, said that neurotechnology can enhance language function in patients with stroke or aphasia caused by other diseases, and that invasive brain-computer interfaces, as well as brain simulation technology, can significantly reduce symptoms in patients with severe Parkinson’s Disease or other movement disorders.
Professor Hong Bo of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Tsinghua University said his team has achieved typing using minimally invasive implantable brain-computer interface with just three intracranial electrodes; each with an information transfer rate of 20 bits per minute. He is looking forward to helping people with disabilities regain the ability to communicate with the outside world.
Professor Nick Ramsey of University Medical Center Utrecht shared that a 58-year-old patient with advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) received a brain implant and was able to type the equivalent of two letters per minute with nearly 90% accuracy using decoding software algorithms and repeated practice. Seven months after the electrode implant, she was able to do spelling practice at home for 32 consecutive days.
Professor Cun-Tai Kwan of the School of Computer Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University points out that new non-invasive brain-computer interface technologies using deep learning algorithms such can make it possible to increase the accuracy of understanding for stroke patients from 70% to 90%, compared with traditional ones.
In addition to presenting the latest results available, the experts gave an outlook on the future applications of these technologies for larger populations.
According to Professor Surjo Soekadar of the University Medical Center Berlin, the current brain-computer interface mainly enables the reconstruction of brain structure and function by decoding the brain’s motor awareness and sensory feedback. The next generation of brain-computer interface technology will be able to decode working memory, emotion and motor integration and achieve a stable enhancement of brain function through adaptive regulation and sensory feedback.
Professor Gerwin Schalk believes that the first employment of neurotechnology in a healthy population will likely be in sleep regulation and the alleviation of depression and anxiety. He cites the example of neurotechnology that generates music eliciting a positive response from the brain and synchronizing the rhythm of the brain and the music. This will help improve the quality of sleep for normal people.