IEEE Standards Related to the Brain

They cover brain-computer interfaces, medical devices, and 3-D displays

8 November 2016

The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) kicked off a discussion in June at a workshop on Standards and Modularity of Brain-Computer Interfaces and Neuroprostheses, sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Neuroprostheses may help people who lack motor, sensory, or cognitive skills, which might have been damaged as a result of injury or disease. The NIH brought together regulatory agencies, manufacturers, researchers, and IEEE-SA to discuss how to begin the standards development process.

For BCI devices to be more widely available beyond the research environment, criteria for their safety and effectiveness must be met. Therefore, there is an opportunity for performance standards to be developed.

The cost needs to be brought down as well. Interoperable standards could help, because BCI modules from more manufacturers could be combined.

As a follow-up to the NIH workshop, the IEEE-SA is planning to form a committee to sponsor new standards activities on neurotechnologies, which can be used to capture, transmit, and record brain signals. They can be helpful for rehabilitation purposes, for example, in conjunction with prosthetics and cognitive training. Neurotechnologies also can be used for entertainment and education, such as interacting in augmented and virtual reality environments, as well as interacting with smart home devices and driving semi-autonomous cars.

A full-day standards session was held during the October Brain Machine Interface Workshop at the IEEE Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. Researchers and manufacturers discussed their current work, and a panel presented an overview of the IEEE-SA standards process and related technical work. At the roundtable discussion that followed, participants suggested standards areas to focus on.


In addition, the IEEE Engineering and Biology Society Standards Committee’s Neurotechnology Working Group produced the 2010–2012 IEEE Recommended Practice for Neurofeedback Systems, which describes the documentation required for instruments and software. Neurofeedback uses real-time displays of brain activity—most commonly electroencephalography—to teach the self-regulation of brain function. Typically, sensors are placed on the scalp to measure activity, with the resulting measurements displayed via video or sound.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited the neurofeedback systems standard as a Recognized Consensus Standard, meaning it was developed by an open and transparent process and provides performance criteria to streamline the review and approval of conforming devices.

This article is part of our November 2016 special issue on technologies for the brain.

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