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A brain-computer interface to communicate with totally paralyzed people

  • Written by James Prewitt
  • Published in Medicine

A brain-computer interface that reads the brain's blood oxygen levels and enables communication by deciphering the thoughts of patients who are totally paralyzed and unable to talk was developed by British scientists. The BCI technique used technologies called near-infrared spectroscopy and electroencephalography (EEG) to measure blood oxygenation and electrical activity in the brain.

Researchers leading this trial said the brain-computer interface (BCI), which is non-invasive, could transform the lives of such patients, allowing them to express feelings and opinion to their loved ones. The trial, published in the journal PLOS Biology on Tuesday, involved four patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - a progressive motor neuron disease that destroys the part of the nervous system responsible for movement. After experiment the patients reported being "happy" despite their condition. The machine records the blood flow... and calculates how (it) changes during "yes" and during "no", and the computer develops an idea, a pattern. The team now plans to build on these results to develop the technology further and eventually aim for it to be available to people with paralysis resulting from ALS, stroke, or spinal cord injury.

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