Brain-Computer Interface

Albany Med and Wadsworth Center Asked to Lead Brain-Computer Interface Lab in Italy

Supported by a multi-million dollar grant from the European Union, Albany Medical Center researchers are leading an international academic partnership to create a research lab in Italy that may  someday help those who are paralyzed or disabled communicate with computers and a new generation of prosthetic devices using only their thoughts.        

Modeled after the brain-computer interface (BCI) lab at Albany Med/Wadsworth and supported by a three-million euro ($3.7 million) grant from the European Union to the Italian government, the newly created BCI lab will be the first of its kind in southern Italy.        

Every facet of the new laboratory's development will be overseen by Albany Med faculty members Anthony Ritaccio, M.D., J. Spencer Standish professor of neurology and neurosurgery and director of the Epilepsy and Human Brain Mapping Program at Albany Medical Center and Gerwin Schalk, Ph.D., associate professor of neurology at Albany Medical College and senior research scientist at the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health. Peter Brunner, M.S., will assist in managing the project.         

Through their work, Drs. Ritaccio and Schalk have implanted sensors onto the surface of the brain that detect the electrical activity of the brain. This electrical activity is then transmitted to a computer. The system uses complex software and algorithms to allow individuals to spell words on a computer without a keyboard, and to operate a computer-generated hand on a screen by thinking commands, an application that could lead to thought-controlled communication or prosthetic systems for people that are severely paralyzed.