Systems, Man & Cybernetics - January 2015 - 6

Brain-Machine
Interfaces: The
Perception-Action
Closed Loop
A Two-Learner System
by José del R. Millán

A

brain-machine interface (BMI) is about transforming neural activity into action and
sensation into perception (Figure 1). In a BMI system, neural signals recorded from the
brain are fed into a decoding algorithm that translates these signals into motor outputs
to control a variety of practical devices for motor-disabled people [1]-[5]. Feedback
from the prosthetic device, conveyed to the user either via normal sensory pathways
or directly through brain stimulation, establishes a closed control loop.
An important aspect of a BMI is the capability to distinguish between different patterns of brain
activity, with each being associated with a particular intention or mental task. Hence, adaptation is a
key component of a BMI because, on the one hand, users must learn to modulate their neural activity
to generate distinct brain patterns, while, on the other hand, machine-learning techniques need to
discover the individual brain patterns characterizing the mental tasks executed by the user. In essence, a BMI is a two-learner system that must engage in a mutual adaptation process [6], [7].
Future neuroprosthetics-robots and exoskeletons controlled via a BMI-will be tightly coupled
with the user in such a way that the resulting system can replace and restore impaired limb functions because they are controlled by the same neural signals as their natural counterparts. However,
the robust and natural interaction of subjects with prostheses over long periods of time remains a
major challenge. To tackle this challenge, we can take inspiration from natural motor control, where
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MSMC.2014.2386901
Date of publication: 24 April 2015

6

IEEE SyStEmS, man, & CybErnEtICS magazInE Janu ar y 2015

2333-942X/15©2015IEEE



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Systems, Man & Cybernetics - January 2015

Systems, Man & Cybernetics - January 2015 - Cover1
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Systems, Man & Cybernetics - January 2015 - Cover3
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