Completely Locked-in Patients Communicate Via Brain-Computer Interface

Posted: Feb 1 2017, 5:00am CST | by , Updated: Feb 1 2017, 5:29am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Locked-in People Communicate Thoughts Using Brain-Computer Interface
This is the NIRS/EEG brain computer interface system shown on a model. CREDIT Wyss Center,
  • Isolated and Quarantined Individuals Reported being Joyous according to Brain-Computer Interface

Isolated and quarantined individuals have reported being joyous according to a brain-computer interface.

Those individuals who have been locked in a pattern of isolation or comatose suspended animation can remain happy despite outward appearances. This fact was recently discovered via a mechanism called a brain-computer interface.

These people cannot normally communicate their thoughts and feelings to the outside world due to being literally stuck in their bodies and minds. A study showed that these people reported being satisfied through this mechanism despite being locked in a fixed situation.

Most of these patients were facing extreme circumstances. They were paralyzed and while they could show limited awareness via blinking of the eyelids, communication in a normal and formal manner was next to impossible.

Those of them who couldn’t even blink their eyelids were tested to gauge their levels of wellness and optimism despite the dismal conditions.

They were connected to a computer where their positive or negative reactions to questions could be gauged. The brain-computer interface measured their responses by the levels of oxygen in the context of the blood-brain barrier.

What emerged from the study shocked and surprised many of the scientists. Four patients with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) were tested in the study.

They could not show any movement in their bodies since the disease destroys motor neurons thereby paralyzing any active facilities. The experts involved in the study asked questions which could be easily answered by the paralyzed patients.

This explodes the myth that people with locked-in syndrome cannot answer questions. They can be reached although the means of doing so are rather indirect and convoluted.

Via their thoughts, the patients were able to communicate to the outer world regarding certain matters. One of them had to do with their happiness quotient.

All four of the patients responded with a clear and resounding “yes” to the question whether they were happy. They were hooked on ventilators and their lives were being extended in an artificial manner.

So long as their needs were being met in a suitable and satisfactory manner, they showed no signs of being unhappy in their responses.

This brain-computer interface will help such patients communicate their true thoughts and feelings to their near and dear ones not to mention their medical caretakers in the future. Thus they will not be totally locked-in as far as their communication needs are concerned.

This new study published on January 31st, 2017 in PLOS Biology.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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