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Difference between Invasive and Non-Invasive BCI | Types of BCIs

This page describes types of BCIs such as Invasive BCI, Partially invasive BCI and Non-invasive BCI. It mentions difference between Invasive BCI and Non-invasive BCI.

Introduction : As we know brain works by transmitting signal to induce movement of different body parts through nerves and muscles. BCI (Brain Computer Interface) has been developed to provide efficient and accurate communication between brain and external device. The external device can be artificial limb or any other device which can be interfaced with computer. Another technology called "brain to brain communication" has also been under development and being used. In this technique, brain signals of sender is converted to electric activities and are transmitted to receiver to simulate the brain.

What is BCI ?

A brain computer interface is bi-directional communication between brain and external device. It acquires, analyzes, and translates brain signals to electric signals to take any specific actions as desired by brain waves. The different brain waves such as Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta and Gamma have unique frequencies and amplitudes. These waves specify different stages of mind of human beings. These brain waves or signals are acquired using sensors placed on scalp or within it.

Brain Computer Interface
Image courtesy : www.researchgate.net

The figure depicts working of the BCI technique. BCI method offers output channel from the brain in order to control outside external device. Refer advantages and disadvantages of Brain Computer Interface >>. Based on technology and implantation of electrodes there are different types of BCIs viz. Invasive BCI, non-invasive BCI and partially invasive BCI.

Invasive BCI

In this technique, electrodes or sensors are implanted inside the skull after surgery to sense the electrical activities of the brain cells. This technique provides high quality output as sensors lie in grey matter. This technique is prone to scar tissue build up in the brain.

Due to certain medical conditions, body does not accept electrodes or sensors. The invasive BCI is very useful to provide functionalities for paralyzed patients. For example, brain chip implant patients can control artificial arm, lights, TV or computer cursor.

Partially Invasive BCI

In this technique, medical devices are implanted inside skull but outside of grey matter. It generates high resolution signals compare to non-invasive BCI. It has low risk of scar tissue formation in the brain. This technique eliminates need of open brain surgery as devices can be inserted through vascular system.

The benefits of partially invasive BCI technique include low complexity, low clinical risk, superior long term stability etc.

Non-Invasive BCI

In this technique, sensors are installed on or very close to head in order to measure brain signals. The surgery is not required in this technique and it is very simple to implement on patients. EEGs and MEGs are used in non-invasive BCI.

The advantages of non invasive BCI include lower costs, greater portability, easy to measure etc. This technique offers poor spatial resolution as skull dampens brain signals. Due to larger distance from brain, this technique is susceptible to noise and offers worse signal resolution.

Difference between Invasive BCI and Non-Invasive BCI

Following points summarize difference between Invasive BCI and Non-Invasive BCI.
➨In invasive BCI, electrodes are implanted directly onto brain of the patient. In non-invasive BCI, sensors or medical scanning devices are mounted on caps or headbands which read brain signals.
➨Invasive BCI requires surgery to implant sensors inside brain where as non-invasive BCI does not require surgery.
➨Invasive BCI carry risk of infection or brain damage where as Non-invasive BCI is safer technique.
➨Non-invasive BCI read signals less effectively compare to invasive technique. Invasive technique provides more accurate results.
➨Non-invasive BCI has ability to read signals from multiple points of the brain compare to its easy tapping without any surgery. This non-invasive identifies wide range of brain activity compare to invasive technique. But it is difficult to process and analyze large amount of acquired neuron data.
➨Non-invasive BCI is susceptible to noise compare to invasive BCI. Hence it offers poor signal resolution than invasive BCI.


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