China News Service, Beijing, February 28 (Reporter Liu Yuying) In recent months, the Neuralink company founded by Elon Musk and the Chinese scientific research team have successively released new breakthroughs in brain-computer interface experiments, highlighting the potential of brain-computer interfaces. A technology is moving from science fiction to reality.

  Recently, a reporter from China News Service interviewed Min Dong, deputy director of the Cloud Computing and Big Data Research Institute of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, to learn about how China lays out brain-computer interfaces, as well as the current situation and future of brain-computer interfaces.

In September 2023, the institute took the lead in establishing a brain-computer interface research working group on the artificial intelligence medical device innovation cooperation platform.

  On October 24, 2023, the scientific research team of Tsinghua University School of Medicine and Xuanwu Hospital successfully conducted the world's first NEO (wireless minimally invasive implantable brain-computer interface) trial.

The patient in the trial suffered a complete spinal cord injury at the cervical spine due to a car accident and has been a quadriplegic for 14 years.

After three months of home-based brain-computer interface rehabilitation training, patients can drive pneumatic gloves through brain electrical activity to realize brain-controlled functions such as drinking water independently.

  On January 30 this year, Elon Musk said that the first patient implanted with the company's brain-computer interface device has been able to control a computer mouse directly through the brain.

  Regarding the technical level of these two cases, Min Dong told a reporter from China News Service that according to the progress of medical devices, the two devices currently belong to the same stage and are both in the small-scale clinical trial stage.

  The technical routes are different.

"Musk's company adopts an invasive route. The electrodes invade the cerebral cortex and collect single-cell discharges, which requires a higher number of channels. Movement decoding can achieve higher-precision control. However, long-term insertion of electrodes into brain cells triggers glial Due to the immune response of cells, glial cells will wrap around the electrodes, causing signal deterioration and making it difficult for the system to work smoothly. This is a clinical problem faced by Neuralink," said Min Dong.

  The minimally invasive brain-computer interface electrodes of the Chinese scientific research team are implanted in the epidural mater and do not destroy the blood-brain barrier. They collect field potential signals. The long-term system stability and safety are higher, but the decoding accuracy is not as good as that of invasive systems. .

  Brain-computer interface has become one of the hot topics at the forefront of global science and technology.

The European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia and other regions and countries have launched many major R&D plans and typical investment projects for this technology.

  Min Dong introduced that in recent years, brain-computer interfaces have made important progress in electrodes, algorithms, chips, etc., including the results of scientific experiments.

In terms of applications, brain-computer interfaces can be used in medical, entertainment, smart life, education, military and other fields.

Among them, the medical field is the main position for brain-computer interface applications, occupying about six levels of market share.

  The combination of brain-computer interface and medical treatment shows broad application prospects.

According to data from the research organization Data Bridge Market Research, the brain-computer interface market size will be US$1.74 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach US$5.692 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.61% during the period.

  In January 2024, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and seven other departments released the "Implementation Opinions on Promoting Future Industrial Innovation and Development", naming the brain-computer interface as one of the top ten iconic products.

  So what level is China's strength?

Min Dong introduced that China’s domestic brain-computer interface products are mainly non-invasive.

From the perspective of the ecological development of brain-computer interfaces, with the efforts of all walks of life, China is forming a full industry chain of brain-computer interfaces covering the basic layer, technology layer and application layer.

In terms of brain-computer interface software research, the research levels of many research institutions in terms of algorithms and paradigms have become world-class.

  Through a search of the incoPat patent database, the number of brain-computer interface patent applications in the medical field from 2013 to 2022 is 1,239.

Among them, China is the country with the largest number of published patents, 602, which is higher than other countries such as the United States (195) and South Korea (119).

  "The vast majority of EEG collection equipment used by scientific research institutions are products produced abroad. Although the performance of domestic EEG instruments and equipment has been greatly improved in the past decade, the share of domestically produced equipment in the scientific research instrument market It’s still very limited,” Min Dong said.

  Challenges in developing brain-computer interfaces also lie in security, biocompatibility, personal privacy, etc.

Min Dong suggested that we should overcome technical bottlenecks, focus on breaking through a batch of products with significant clinical value, vigorously promote relevant application pilots, and at the same time increase the public knowledge of the basic principles and related knowledge of brain-computer interfaces to avoid unnecessary speculation and panic.