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Science & Technology

Brain interface mind-reads locked-in patients

February 1, 2017 | Comment icon 9 comments



The breakthrough could significantly help locked-in patients. Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Allan Ajifo
A new mind-reading breakthrough has made it possible to communicate with completely locked-in patients.
In a new experiment, an international team of researchers succeeded in making it possible for locked-in syndrome (CLIS) sufferers to communicate that they were "happy".

Unlike most paralysis patients, sufferers of CLIS will be generally unable to move any part of their body at all - not even their eyes - thus making conventional communication impossible.

For years it was believed that there was no way that these patients could ever communicate what they were thinking, but now thanks to a novel new mind-reading system, scientists have not only been able to pick up electrical activity in the brain but have also been able to translate it, thus making it possible for CLIS sufferers to communicate with the outside world.
The system works by having the patient think "yes" or "no" in response to simple questions so that the brain activity associated with these answers can be recognized.

"We were initially surprised at the positive responses when we questioned the four completely locked-in patients about their quality of life," said lead investigator Professor Niels Birbaumer.

"All four had accepted artificial ventilation in order to sustain their life, when breathing became impossible; thus, in a sense, they had already chosen to live."

"What we observed was that as long as they received satisfactory care at home, they found their quality of life acceptable. It is for this reason, if we could make this technique widely clinically available, it could have a huge impact on the day-to-day life of people with completely locked-in syndrome."

Source: Independent | Comments (9)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Parsec 5 years ago
Apart from usual robapocalyptic or conspiracy thoughts, this is really fantastic.  I can't even fathom how it feels, but I guess it has to be terrible.    Now, what if the clis patients say "kill me"?  Well, since it's only yes or no at the moment, maybe people just have to avoid the question. 
Comment icon #2 Posted by and then 5 years ago
This sounds like research with fMRI scanning.  If it proves reproducible, maybe they can find a less expensive and time-consuming way to communicate.  For these poor patients, it must be like a real miracle.
Comment icon #3 Posted by pallidin 5 years ago
Yeah, to be " locked in" within your own body, somewhat clearly aware of your surroundings and possibly your own condition, yet unable to communicate to your loved one's or doctors at all; no lifting of your fingers or blinking your eyes to respond. Must be a psychological "mind ****" of sorts. I can see how this technology might help.
Comment icon #4 Posted by Four Winds 5 years ago
That must be a life changing experience for them.  I could not imagine how it would feel to basically be trapped in your body. The future looks bright for this technology.  It should be affordable for just about anyone soon. Here are 8 gadgets that are brain controlled, either in the works or already for sale. http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/brain-controlled-gadgets/
Comment icon #5 Posted by Four Winds 5 years ago
They could use that technology even with only a Yes or NO response to allow the person to spell out a sentence.  They would have to ask several yes/no questions to get each letter, but I think it would be worth it to the person suffering from CLIS.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Podo 5 years ago
Amazing technological achievement. Being locked in your own body would be much more bearable if you could communicate. Still no bueno, of course, but a whole world of difference.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Still Waters 5 years ago
I think it's an excellent breakthrough.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Calibeliever 5 years ago
This is a great use of this tech. Hopefully they can expand it next to a simple vocabulary. 
Comment icon #9 Posted by White Unicorn 5 years ago
Can you imagine how happy they would be just to be able to communicate. Even if you had a great caregiver who talked and cared for you as a conscious person, communication is so very important to life.  We may have some people similar to Hawking and his way of overcoming the ALS disability.     


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