Ali Haider

Oct 10, 2020

4 min read

A Better Look Into Our Brains

Why we need to improve the use of both electroencephalography and electrocorticography in Brain-Computer-Interface

No matter how much you’re into tech, you’ve probably heard about brain computer-interfaces and the effect they’re going to have on the world.

Whether its Emotiv or MindMaze, many companies focus on democratizing brain computer-interface. Despite how advanced and lucrative this new technology may seem, the method in which we currently measure neural activity is lagging behind the methods that should meet our expectations of this exponential technology.

This is because many companies focused on BCI use electroencephalography to measure electrical activity between neurons.

What is Electroencephalography?

Electroencephalography (EEG) are electrodes that are commonly placed on the scalp of the brain that measures large groups of neurons and the activity between them. They are usually used to measure the activity found in the cerebral cortex of the brain.

In a sentence, EEGs measure the postsynaptic potential (effect in electric charge) of neurons that are created by neurotransmitters (the electrical signals neurons relay from one to another).

Let’s look at the pros and cons of EEGs.

PROS:

  • EEGs get spontaneous results. They are able to get a sense of change in electrical activity 300 milliseconds after that change actually occurred. This is referred to as having a high temporal resolution.
  • Is currently used to diagnose seizures proving its success in some applications right now
  • One of the cheapest options for a device that is able to measure electrical activity

CONS:

  • Can’t find where exactly electrical activity is coming from (low spacial recognition)
  • The event-related potential, the electrical change in a certain area of the brain that changes as a result of an event in the real world, is only measured based on where the strongest electrical signals come from
This graphic shows how EEGs compare to MRIs and fMRIs

Not only this, but EEGs aren’t very fashionable!

These points reiterate a certain fact:

Electroencephalography devices aren’t good enough to be apart of a technology (Brain-Computer-Interfaces) that will run the world in a few years’ time.

So what’s an alternative?

Neuralink, by Elon Musk, is one of the most famous initiatives in the field of Brain-Computer-Interfaces.

Neuralink aims to find cures for many neurological issues and lead the way for a symbiosis between artificial intelligence and humans.

What makes them different than a lot of other companies hoping to use BCIs is that they are willing to use electrocorticography to measure the change in electrical activity in the brain. This risky approach to Brain Computer-Interface could prove to help them in the long run.

What is Electrocorticography (ECOG)?

ECOG involves an invasive procedure that places electrodes inside the brain of a patient. There are many reasons why this method of measuring brain activity is preferred over using EEG.

ECOGs finds an electrical signal that is created from an action potential. An action potential is created when neurotransmitters released by the synapses from neurons create a line of electrical activity. ECOGs can detect the relayed electrical signal from the action potential. This means that …..

ECOG is much more accurate!

Electrocorticography allows for both present results (within milliseconds) and more accuracy involving where neural activity is coming from within the brain.

Current Applications

ECOG is being used (similarly to EEG) to help patients suffering from epilepsy. One of the most amazing applications being done right now is with a patient who used an ECOG device at Arnold Palmer Hospital. The ECOG device detected where exactly her seizures were coming. They inputted the device through an invasive surgery. After finding the exact region of the brain the seizures were occurring from, the doctors were able to remove that part of the brain (after making sure it didn’t have an important function). This managed to reduce the number of seizures she had each day by 85%.

The Drawback

One of the biggest drawbacks to using ECOG is the security risks that come with it. Elon Musk has continually denied the possibility of the breaches of information that could result from a Neuralink procedure. Despite this, many still fear implanting a machine into their brain is a threat to their most private part of their life.

Why We Need EEG and ECOG to Improve?

Brain-Computer-Interface is bound to affect our everyday lives in the next few years. Despite this, the extent to which it will affect us is something we aren’t sure of yet. Many across the world aren’t ready for an invasive ECOG procedure to bridge the gap between humans and computers. On the other hand, EEG isn’t accurate enough to be used to allow us to control machines in the way we always dreamed we could with BCI.

Why You Should Care?

As we continue to better connect with artificial intelligence, we must consider how we are going to communicate with the machines in our everyday lives.

Do we want a device implanted in our brain capable of reading our every thought?

Or, would we be okay with continuing to use a sub-standard method of measuring electrical signals from our brain and lose out on the opportunity of a lifetime with BCI?