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Paralyzed ALS patient can operate speech computer with her mind

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From ScienceDaily:

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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3 Replies to “Paralyzed ALS patient can operate speech computer with her mind

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    She can now communicate at home with her family and caregivers via the implant.

    @16 in the below link gpuccio commented on the ‘interface model’:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-620672

    http://www.umcutrecht.nl/en/About-us

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    News, interesting article. Thank you for posting it here.

    Original paper associated with this case:

    Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS

    Mariska J. Vansteensel, Ph.D., Elmar G.M. Pels, M.Sc., Martin G. Bleichner, Ph.D., Mariana P. Branco, M.Sc., Timothy Denison, Ph.D., Zachary V. Freudenburg, Ph.D., Peter Gosselaar, M.D., Sacha Leinders, M.Sc., Thomas H. Ottens, M.D., Max A. Van Den Boom, M.Sc., Peter C. Van Rijen, M.D., Erik J. Aarnoutse, Ph.D., and Nick F. Ramsey, Ph.D.

    DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1608085
    http://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMoa1608085

    Options for people with severe paralysis who have lost the ability to communicate orally are limited.

    We describe a method for communication in a patient with late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), involving a fully implanted brain–computer interface that consists of subdural electrodes placed over the motor cortex and a transmitter placed subcutaneously in the left side of the thorax.

    By attempting to move the hand on the side opposite the implanted electrodes, the patient accurately and independently controlled a computer typing program 28 weeks after electrode placement, at the equivalent of two letters per minute.

    The brain–computer interface offered autonomous communication that supplemented and at times supplanted the patient’s eye-tracking device.

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    Questions about this interesting case:

    They refer to the “brain-computer interface” but ultimately isn’t this about “patient – computer interface”?

    Doesn’t the patient voluntarily attempt to move hands, fingers?

    Aren’t those ‘attempts’ translated by the patient’s brain into impulses with specific amplitude and frequency detected by the implanted electrodes which transmit signals to the rest of the brain-computer interface?

    Do the original attempts come from the patient or from the associated brain?

    If the patient’s brain could be totally replaced one small part at a time, would the patient still communicate with the computer?

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