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Kozma's research is brain wave of the future
Dr. Robert Kozma
Dr. Robert Kozma
Mathematics professor Dr. Robert Kozma may not be bending spoons and levitating glasses, but he is working on technology that allows people to control machines with their brain waves.

In his Computational Neurodynamics Lab at the U of M’s FedEx Institute of Technology, Kozma’s team monitors the cognitive behavior of animals and humans using a non-intrusive technique, a scalp EEG — an array of electrodes put on the head like a hat. This will allow for direct brain-computer interface by using brain waves to interact with the computer. Think of a keyboard-less computer that eliminates the need for hand or voice interaction.

“What’s becoming a reality is that you can talk to the computer and it talks back to you,” said Kozma, who recently moved from the computer science department to mathematics in the College of Arts & Sciences. “There’s a next step using interaction even without voice. This type of interface can be used for disabled people and the elderly. If they cannot move or are limited in their movement, they can turn on certain devices like the phone.”

The research has three prongs of use: video/computer gaming; to support people with disabilities or physical constraints, such as the elderly; and to improve control of complex machinery, such as an aircraft and other military and civilian uses.

The direct brain-computer interface would give those with physical constraints or those operating complex machinery “extra arms.”

 The main collaborator is Dr. Leonid Perlovsky, principal research physicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory & visiting scholar at Harvard University. The research is patented through the U of M’s FedEx Institute of Technology and the Air Force Research Lab.

The National Science Foundation originally supported the fundamental theoretical research and mathematical aspects of brain waves. The project has ongoing support from the Air Force.

The other use, not related to movement or controlling a machine, is the bio-medical application for brain-related diseases. The lab already collects data from patients with epilepsy at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center and other sources. Additional behaviors applicable are Parkinson’s, schizophrenia and sleep apnea.

Kozma’s group is also in the early stages of finding brain waves that predict movements, in the hope of helping individuals with prosthetics.

— by Sara Hoover

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Last Updated: 1/23/12