Wired for thought

USA (Providence)

Wouldn’t it be amazing if neuroscience helped paralysed people move again?

Neural prosthetics are devices that work by offering a substitute for a motor, sensory or cognitive modality that might have been damaged as a result of an injury, disease or limb loss. They are a neural equivalent to existing cochlear and retinal prostheses for people who have lost sensory function.

BrainGate is one of the advanced projects of The Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory (NPTL),  who conduct research to provide neural prostheses for people with paralysis – allowing extremely paralysed individuals to control robotic arms using a brain-machine interface. Currently the Neural Interface System is an investigational device available through a clinical study.

Participants have a small, wireless multi-electrode interface implanted in their brain. The electrode is connected to recording equipment which records and decodes the brain activity in order that is can be communicated to another electronic device. This could be a computer desktop or other communication device, such as a powered wheelchair, prosthetic or robotic limb, or, in the future, a functional electrical stimulation device that can move limbs directly. Faint electrical spikes emitted by neurons are amplified and digital information is beamed to a distance of a few metres to a receiver. This way, someone’s thoughts can directly control an artificial arm or computer mouse, quite literally turning thought into action.


BrainGate was mapped by Phil Dobson in his AtlasChart Top 5 brain hacks – a trip through his favourite neuroscience projects from brain-zapping to nootropics.

Written by

Phil Dobson (16 October 2015)


As the founder of BrainWorkshops, Phil turns insights from neuroscience, cognitive and behavioural psychology, neurolinguistic programming, and hypnotherapy into applicable skills and techniques for the workplace: brain-based training that transforms thinking and performance.

Project leader

Beth Travers, BrainGate Research Team Manager

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