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Paralyzed Patients Communicate Thoughts Via Brain-Computer Interface

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A model displays the NIRS/EEG brain-computer interface system.

Researchers in the U.K. have use a new noninvasive brain-computer interface they developed to communicate with patients who are totally paralyzed and unable to talk.

Credit: Laurent Bouvier/Wyss Centre/Handout

A new noninvasive brain-computer interface (BCI) has enabled researchers in the U.K. to communicate with patients who are totally paralyzed and unable to talk.

The initial study involved four patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who were considered completely locked-in--unable to move any part of their body voluntarily, including their eyes. However, the BCI cap enabled these patients to answer researchers' "yes" or "no" questions by thinking the answers.

The BCI technique uses near-infrared brain spectroscopy and electroencephalography to measure the brain's blood oxygenation levels and electrical activity.

The subjects were asked "yes" or "no" questions with known responses, such as the patient's husband's name, so the software could learn each individual's brain activity patterns for positive and negative responses. Questions with known answers elicited correct responses 70% of the time.

Patients also were asked repeatedly over weeks of questioning if they were happy, and all four patients consistently responded "yes."

The researchers are planning to develop the technology further and aim for it to be available to people with complete locked-in syndrome resulting from ALS, stroke, or spinal cord injury.

From Reuters
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