After receiving a brain implant, a paralyzed man is now undergoing research at Wyss Center For Bio And Neuroengineering (Switzerland). He has spoken his first words in over a month.
After being in a locked-in state due to ALS, the man had two electrode arrays placed in his brain.
This progressive neurological disease affects the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. The microchip brain implant enabled the paralyzed man to request a beer with only his thoughts. This breakthrough technology in medical science is truly remarkable.
According to Nature Communications’ latest study, it is the first time that a fully locked-in person — someone who has full cognitive ability but is completely paralyzed — is able to communicate in complete sentences.
A German man, aged 26, was diagnosed in 2015 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a rare progressive neurological disease that causes muscle loss.
Two microchips measuring approximately 1.5mm in size were implanted by Medics in the patient’s motor cortex. This is the area at the top of the brain responsible for controlling movement.
The man was then taught to visualize physical movements in order to get a reliable brain signal.
Then, they would try to translate the signal into a command but this was not successful.
Researchers Ujwal Chaudhary & Niels Birbaumer tried neurofeedback. This is where a person’s brain activity is displayed in real-time so that they can control it.
The computer would play a rising tone if the electrodes implanted in the man’s brain registered an increase in activity. A decrease in brain activity would result in a falling tone.
Researchers said that the man was able to control the tone’s frequency in just two days.
Family members used to hold up a grid consisting of letters and four colors before the condition became more serious. Family members would point at each row and section of the color and interpret any eye movement to be a “yes”.
Researchers used software to replicate this technique, where the man would hear words of color followed by individual letters.
To select or dismiss a letter, he could use either a rising tone or descending tone. Researchers said that this was how the man learned to communicate whole sentences.
Each letter takes approximately one minute to be selected by the man.
“Beer” was always his last word.
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