Mijail Serruya, 29
Connects brains directly to computers int he hope of helping paralyzed people communicate and control robotic aids
It takes incredible patience to interview people so severely paralyzed they can communicate only with the blink of an eye or the twitch of a brow. But it was partly impatience that inspired Mijail Serruya to do just that. The Brown University medical student and PhD was helping to develop a “brain-machine interface,” and he was eager to put it to work helping profoundly disabled people. Talking to them about their needs was an important step. Brain-machine interfaces could potentially allow paralyzed people to communicate through computers and to control robotic wheelchairs and aids. Serruya started by fine-tuning algorithms that allow signals recorded by electrode arrays implanted in the brain to change the position of a cursor on a computer screen. He says his colleagues were planning to explore human applications “one day”, but to him the question was, What are they waiting for? Aiming to move the interface into human trials, Serruya, Brown neuroscientist John Donoghue, and two others founded Foxborough, MA-based Cyberkinetics in 2001. They have hurdles to clear before they can begin human tests, Serruya says, but one gets the sense that all they need is a little patience.