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Brains behind the technology

Media release

A Curtin University engineer has helped to develop a technology with the potential to provide rehabilitation, intervention and treatment for patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), severe paralysis, and stroke.

Associate Professor Tele Tan, of Curtin’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computing, said his research used Electroencephalography (EEG) signals as a brain computer interface (BCI) technology to measure the neurological responses of individuals when presented with environmental stimuli.

“EEG involves the recording of spontaneous electrical activity from the brain, in response to sight, sound, touch, movement and smell, which is transmitted by multiple electrodes placed on an individual’s scalp,” Associate Professor Tan said.

“Using this as a BCI means we are connecting this neurological activity to a computer interface, allowing us to control a computer program or external device through these neurological responses.”

Associate Professor Tan said using BCI technology in this way meant his research could be tailored to study human perception as a way to provide physical and neurological rehabilitation.

“One of the strengths of BCI is that it can be used to quantify a person’s neurological response and how well or poorly they have responded to stimuli, which can tell us quite a lot about their condition,” he said.

“For example, we have used BCI to measure visual target spotting, which can provide measureable evidence as to whether using the latest in 3D visualisation technology can help image interpreters perform better at their jobs.

“The same technique can be adopted to treat people with disorders like ADHD, ASD and stroke by embedding BCI into rehabilitation and intervention methods, with the aim of increasing the efficacy and response of these treatments.”

Associate Professor Tan said BCI was a multi-disciplinary field involving contributions from a range of disciplines, including engineering, computing, neuroscience, psychology and occupational therapy.

“With this technology there is the potential to provide a channel of communication for severely paralysed people, motor rehabilitation for stroke sufferers and treatment for patients with ADHD and ASD,” he said.

“The problem with machine-centred models is that they are designed to largely ignore the human elements in a decision making process and I wanted to pursue research which included ways of quantifying human perception and experience.”

In 2009, Associate Professor Tan set up the Studio for Experiential Sensing and Virtual Environment to promote BCI research activity in Western Australia. Most recently, Associate Professor Tan and Professor Torbjorn Falkmer, of Curtin’s School of Occupational Therapy and Social Work, have initiated a project aimed at studying the physiological and neurological patterns of people performing facial recognition functions.

Curtin University has established a research partnership with the Brain Computer Interface Laboratory at the Institute for Infocomm Research, Singapore. This research collaboration involves the study of ocular artefact available from EEG signals and using it as a BCI. Associate Professor Tan supervises two Curtin PhD students working on this program.

Contacts:

Andrea Barnard, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241, Email: andrea.barnard@curtin.edu.au

Associate Professor Tele Tan, Department of Computing, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 1207, Email: t.tan@curtin.edu.au 

Web: www.curtin.edu.au