IN order to serve the humanity and to help people suffering from disabilities due to neuromuscular disorders, an interdisciplinary field, involving neuroscience, psychology, engineering, physiology, mathematics, computer science and clinical rehabilitation, has evolved.

Commonly referred to as brain computer interface (BCI), mind machine interface (MMI) or brain machine interface, this field of knowledge has grabbed considerable attraction throughout the globe over the last few years.

BCI is an interface technique used to control hardware devices through brain activity without peripheral nerves and muscles. The BCI research is aimed at providing people having complete or partial paralysis or those suffering from neuromuscular disorders, such as brain stroke and spinal cord injury, an opportunity to lead a normal life once again.

For both voluntary and involuntary human actions, brain initially generates several synchronised electrical signals. These signals are termed electroencephalographic (EEG) signals. The EEG signals consist of stationary pulses of variable lengths, which are separated by much sharper disruptions or pulses of short duration.

Significant power is contained in signals with frequencies below 1Hz, whereas very low power is available in spectral components of frequencies above 30Hz. EEG signals are collected by placing two or more electrodes on the human scalp.

The signals are moderately correlated to different levels and are due to the physical proximity of electrodes. These correlations reveal a simultaneous neuron activity. Various emotional and behavioural states of the subject correspond to different spectral components and correlations.

A group of researchers at the Department of Physics, University of Karachi, is engaged in understanding different functions of brain and mechanism of the non-muscular channel of communication between the human brain and computer systems.

To accomplish this, a state-of-the-art BCI research laboratory is functional at the University of Karachi. On the basis of self-support and individual help from people who are active members of an old society of the Department of Physics alumni, called the Karachi Physics Society (KPS), an MDX NeuroPro32 EEG recording device was bought some eight years ago. The device is capable of gathering braining signals 19 Ag/AgCl electrodes. Spatial and spectral analysis is then performed to understand the electrodynamics of the brain.

The BCI laboratory has recently established closed collaboration with researchers from many technologically-advanced countries, including the United States, Austria, Turkey and Malaysia. Many research students are engaged and completing interesting projects. Two PhD and more than six MS theses have already been produced. The laboratory deserves all the support it can get from the government and its various organisations for the advancement and effective utilisation of the existing facility.

Prof (Dr) Intikhab Ulfat
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2021

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