Fully Paralyzed but able to communicate words and sentences

“Making it more user-friendly and speeding up communication speed will be crucial.”

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I am very interested in the subject: Optimization of the communication between human and computer.

In this field brain-computer interface technologies that aim to translate a person’s brain signals into commands are very promising.

You might have heard neuralink and Elon Musk talk about the subject. But he’s not the only one working on it. Research institutes around the world have invested heavily in the technology. 

This morning I read an article in the NYT about a study that seemed to provides the first example of a fully paralyzed man communicating words and sentences.

Some people experience the unreal reality in which they lose their ability to move. This makes communication very difficult and sometimes impossible. But now, there might have been a very interesting breakthrough. 

The study was lead by Niels Birbaumer, a former neuroscientist at the University of Tübingen. 

In this study, a computerized synthetic voice was used to list colors that defined a group of letters. The brain of a fully paralyzed man who participated in this study was connected to a computer interface which enabled him to reply yes or no by altering his brain activity through imagining eye movement.

After selecting a color, the synthetic voice listed out each letter. This enabled the patient to select an individual letter and form words and sentences.

Truly amazing but as mentioned by Jonas Zimmermann, a neuroscientist at the Wyss Center and an author on the study “ It’s very dangerous to create false hope”.

Experts such as Neil Thakur, chief mission officer of the ALS Association, stress the fact that “This approach is experimental, so there’s still a lot we need to learn.”

One of the other authors of the study: Dr. Chaudhary said that the technology is far too complex for patients and families to operate at this stage. 

“Making it more user-friendly and speeding up communication speed will be crucial.”

I think this is very interesting. Maybe it’s possible to use a synthetic voice at for example triple speed without losing essential intelligibility.