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.
|Dr. Robert Kozma
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
“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
The National Science Foundation originally supported the fundamental theoretical research
and mathematical aspects of brain waves. The project has ongoing support from the
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