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Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs)

What are they?

BCIs use electrodes ? either implanted in the brain, or resting on the scalp ? to record brain signals which are then translated into instructions for operating a computer controlled device. BCIs give users the opportunity to control devices, for example, by imagining movements.

What are they used for?

BCIs are being investigated for use facilitating movement and communication, so they offer significant potential to help paralysed individuals. Currently, invasive BCIs are only being used with patients in research settings. Some non-invasive BCIs are starting to become commercially available, for example as controls for computer games.

What are the potential risks?

Invasive BCIs carry risks associated with brain surgery. Most BCIs under investigation are non-invasive and very low risk, though little is yet known about the ways in which they might alter brain function after extended long-term use.

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