Science

For the first time ever, fully paralyzed patient uses brain chip to communicate

A fully paralyzed man, who is unable to speak or move his eyes, has been able to communicate using a breakthrough implanted brain-computer interface (BCI), for the first time ever.

The patient was asked to imagine moving his limbs and tongue. When this proved difficult to achieve, the patient was then required to train himself to manipulate his own brain activity using a technique called auditory neurofeedback, in a bid to match the pitch of a “target note” by imagining moving his eyes.

In 12 days, he was able to match the second to the first, with positive results having occurred as soon as day one. With the help of colors to group certain letters, the paralyzed man developed the technique to form words and sentences, such as: “For food I want to have curry with potato then Bolognese and potato soup.”

The man was able to form comprehensible sentences 44 days out of 107 days he spent testing the technique, reaching a speed of one character per minute.

The researchers are now refining the experimental system into a commercial product, one which could help patients in their daily lives. They plan to make the device wireless and fully implantable and to improve the speed and complexity of movements that patients using the implant can perform.

“It’s a landmark study because it shows that even years after injury, you can still record useful signals from the brain and use them to drive a device,” says Joseph Pancrazio, program director for neural engineering research at the National Institutes for Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, MD. “This group has really pushed the frontier.”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH 

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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