New Brainwave Reader Lets Paralyzed People Talk Again!

Brainwave
Brainwave

A tiny brain implant could restore the communication ability of people fully paralyzed by ALS, scientists say.

Swiss and German researchers claim they’ve developed a brain-computer interface (BCI), an implanted device, which allowed a 34-year-old man with severe ALS to interact with others — and even order a beer!

The progressive neurodegenerative condition — also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease — gradually robs patients of the ability to move and talk.

Nearly 30,000 Americans are affected by the illness. Current assistive devices rely on eye or facial muscle movement to operate speech-generating devices — like late physicist Stephen Hawking’s robotic voice generator. But advanced ALS can leave folks with zero ability to trigger the equipment. This leaves patients in a terrifying locked-in state, where they may be aware of their surroundings but are unable to respond.

However, the scientists say the BCI, which consists of two square microelectrode arrays measuring 3.2 mm apiece, contains two sets of 64 needle-like points that record neural signals from the motor cortex — the part of the brain responsible for movement.

They say the system learned when the patient — whose name was withheld — was responding yes or no to questions based on his brain activity. He was ultimately able to string together phrases via a program that read the alphabet aloud.

Research into the technology continues, but Jonas Zimmermann, a neuroscientist at Switzerland’s Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering, explains, “Ours is the first study to achieve communication by someone who has no remaining voluntary movement.”

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