Neurobionics and the brain–computer interface: current applications and future horizons

Jeffrey V Rosenfeld and Yan Tat Wong
Med J Aust 2017; 206 (8): . || doi: 10.5694/mja16.01011
Published online: 1 May 2017



  • The brain–computer interface (BCI) is an exciting advance in neuroscience and engineering.
  • In a motor BCI, electrical recordings from the motor cortex of paralysed humans are decoded by a computer and used to drive robotic arms or to restore movement in a paralysed hand by stimulating the muscles in the forearm. Simultaneously integrating a BCI with the sensory cortex will further enhance dexterity and fine control.
  • BCIs are also being developed to:
    • provide ambulation for paraplegic patients through controlling robotic exoskeletons;
    • restore vision in people with acquired blindness;
    • detect and control epileptic seizures; and
    • improve control of movement disorders and memory enhancement.
  • High-fidelity connectivity with small groups of neurons requires microelectrode placement in the cerebral cortex. Electrodes placed on the cortical surface are less invasive but produce inferior fidelity. Scalp surface recording using electroencephalography is much less precise.
  • BCI technology is still in an early phase of development and awaits further technical improvements and larger multicentre clinical trials before wider clinical application and impact on the care of people with disabilities. There are also many ethical challenges to explore as this technology evolves.


  • 1 Monash Institute of Medical Engineering, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC
  • 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, VIC
  • 3 Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

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