At UMC Utrecht, a brain implant has been placed in a patient enabling her to operate a speech computer with her mind. The researchers and the patient worked intensively to get the settings right. She can now communicate at home with her family and caregivers via the implant. That a patient can use this technique at home is unique in the world. This research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The patient operates the speech computer by moving her fingers in her mind. This changes the brain signal under the electrodes. That change is converted into a mouse click. On a screen in front of her she can see the alphabet, plus some additional functions such as deleting a letter or word and selecting words based on the letters she has already spelled. The letters on the screen light up one by one. She selects a letter by influencing the mouse click at the right moment with her brain. That way she can compose words, letter by letter, which are then spoken by the speech computer. This technique is comparable to actuating a speech computer via a push-button (with a muscle that can still function, for example, in the neck or hand). So now, if a patient lacks muscle activity, a brain signal can be used instead. Paper. (public access) – Mariska J. Vansteensel, Elmar G.M. Pels, Martin G. Bleichner, Mariana P. Branco, Timothy Denison, Zachary V. Freudenburg, Peter Gosselaar, Sacha Leinders, Thomas H. Ottens, Max A. Van Den Boom, Peter C. Van Rijen, Erik J. Aarnoutse, Nick F. Ramsey. Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS. New England Journal of Medicine, 2016; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608085 More.
See also: Researcher: Never mind the “hard problem of consciousness”: The real one is… We are “conscious beast-machines.”
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