By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE â€“ Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. James R. Langevin visited two Brown University brain research labs on June 7, seeing first hand the state-of-art research in developing new tools to combat severe paralysis, depression, epilepsy and Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
In a poignant moment, Langevin, who is confined to a wheelchair, examined the new wireless implantable brain sensors being developed under the direction of engineer Arto Nurmikko. The goal is to create a mobile version of a super computer, similar to an iPhone, that can be attached to a wheelchair and connect with the wireless brain sensor, Nurmikko explained to Langevin. â€śIt will serve as an electronic Rosetta Stone that will translate your thoughts into a meaningful electronic signal,â€ť Nurmikko siad.
Not only will it enable wearers to use their own thoughts to control a robotic arm, it will also potentially allow the two-way interface of nerves sending signals to the brain, enabling sensation to return.
Langevin and Whitehouse also toured Brownâ€™s Virtual Environment Navigation Lab in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, where they both donned head-mounted display gear, enabling them to traverse a computer generated virtual environment.