HSE Scientists Study the Capabilities of the Human Brain

The HSE Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces studies bilateral brain-computer communications and creates neuro interfaces for neuro rehabilitation and developing bionic prosthetics. This allows scientists to successfully rehabilitate patients who have suffered strokes, develop prosthetics with better sensitivity, and even provide ways to assess the competency of simultaneous interpreters.

Brain - Computer: Rehabilitation of Patients

Academic Supervisor of the Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces, Mikhail Lebedev, Senior Research Scientist at Duke University, Durham, USA, describes the field of the Centre’s research thus:

‘We are witnessing a digital revolution that has changed the world. Many problems that used to be science fiction just recently are being successfully solved by contemporary science. Brain-computer interfaces are a breakthrough area at the intersection of fundamental neuroscience, technology, medicine, physics and mathematics. Digitalization makes it possible to connect the brain to external devices, such as computers, communication equipment, prosthetic body parts and even prosthetic parts of the brain. Brain-computer interfaces are capable of bilateral information exchange: they decode signals from the brain and at the same time, deliver information to the brain, such as tactile, visual and audial sensations caused by electric stimulation of neural tissue’.

When combined with new biologically compatible microelectrodes, control systems designed with algorithms developed by the Centre’s researchers allow them to design of naturally controlled bionic prosthetics. These prosthetics will help patients with severe musculoskeletal system damages partially or fully restore their motor abilities.

‘We are developing new mathematical algorithms, such as neural networks with deep learning, which provide an opportunity to control the movement of a virtual hand or a prosthetic,’ said Alexey Ossadtchi, the Centre’s Director. ‘We have achieved some unique results: we have created an artificial neural network, which controls specific fingers of a virtual hand in real time. Motor function restoration is one of the priorities in paralyzed patients’ rehabilitation’.

The Centre is also working on restoring the motor functions in legs. To do so, they use an interface that connects the brain to the lower limbs exoskeleton produced by Russian company ExoAtlet, which helps people with paralyzed legs start walking again. This can also be used in post-stroke rehabilitation.’

The HSE Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces was one of the first in the world to implement this technology and successfully test it on human patients

‘In 2019-2020, the Centre is focusing on developing bidirectional interfaces, which decode motor signals and send sensory information to the somatosensory cortex. Bidirectional interfaces will help patients control their neural prosthetics as they would a part of their own body, receiving tactile and proprioceptive signals from the prosthetics, which facilitates the feeling that the prosthetic is part of the body and promotes the more natural use,’ said Mikhail Lebedev, Academic Supervisor of the HSE Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces.

How the Brain Behaves During Simultaneous Interpretation

The Centre’s scholars studied the brain’s activity during simultaneous interpretation, focusing on the interaction between key brain resources, such as attention and memory. The study is valuable both in academic and practical terms. Alexey Ossadtchi said that the scientists’ findings can help create a technology for the objective ranking of simultaneous interpreters. This may streamline their recruitment process.

The Centre’s International Cooperation

The laboratory staff have created a course, ‘Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence’, which they teach in HSE’s Faculty of Computer Science, as well as an English-taught course in Digital Signal Processing (DSP) for first-year master’s students of Cognitive Science and Technology at the HSE School of Psychology.

A team of the Centre’s researchers regularly participates in an international competition for people with disabilities who use the assistive technology, Neurothlon. The aim of the competition is to popularize high technology, to expand the capabilities of the human body, and to replace the function of lost parts.

The Centre maintains regular academic data exchange with the University of Tübingen, the Technical University of Berlin, Germany, and Duke University, USA.