Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed ALS Patient To Communicate Again

Posted: Nov 15 2016, 12:13am CST | by , Updated: Nov 15 2016, 12:16am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed ALS Women to Communicate Again
Credit: Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, University Medical Center Utrecht

Computer-brain interface enabled paralyzed woman to spell out messages with their minds

Researchers from University Medical Center Utrecht in Netherlands have successfully tested a brain implant that enabled a paralyzed woman to control a speech computer solely through her brain activity.

The 58-year old woman is suffering from progressive neurodegenerative disease called ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is no longer able to move and speak. With brain implant placed in her mind, she can now operate a computer typing system independently and spell out messages just using her mind. Prior to brain implant, she could only communicate through eye movements or blinks.

“This is a major breakthrough in achieving autonomous communication among severely paralyzed patients whose paralysis is caused by either ALS,” said Nick Ramsey, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht. “In effect, this patient has had a kind of remote control placed in her head, which enables her to operate a speech computer without the use of her muscles.”

The new system, called brain-computer interface, is totally invisible as it sits inside the brain. But the most remarkable thing about the new implant is that it can work anywhere. Previously, some systems have also allowed patients to communicate to a certain degree but those systems required extra help or installation of wires and devices for their function.

The new system, which is inserted through holes in skull, lets patients’ imagine moving their hands and put messages together by typing letters with brain signals. The new brain implant allows a patient to spell messages at a rate of two letters per minute, which is slower than desired. Still, the new system is far more dependable and autonomous. Most importantly, it can be used at home environment.

An estimated 6,000 people are diagnosed with the ASL in the US each year. These patients have thoughts and desires like any normal person but they just lose their ability to convey their message. The condition is untreatable yet.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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