Paralyzed Patients: A Brain Computer Could Decipher Their Thoughts

By Irene Guerrero , Feb 01, 2017 02:21 AM EST

Paralyzed patients could hear people that speak around them, but could not respond to them. Paralyzed patients could also feel the touch of people that visits and care for them, but could not touch them back. They could probably see, feel, hear but could not move or even blink their eyes.

People who experienced medication overdose, diseases of the circulatory or nervous system, traumatic brain injury or stroke, could lead to a complete paralysis. It is believed that completely locked-in patients could not communicate with the outside world. However, a new study says otherwise.

A group of international scientist has communicated with a completely paralyzed patients using a noninvasive brain-computer interface system. According to the study, the researchers decipher the thoughts of the patients while they are asked yes or no questions. Niels Birbaumer, a researcher at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Switzerland and lead author of the new study, said that with some training every caretaker with average intelligence could probably learn how to use the noninvasive brain-computer interface system. One of the patient’s family member is using it regularly.

For the brain computer to decode the thoughts of the patient, the system involved functional near-infrared spectroscopy. This is a tool that can measure blood flow and oxygenation in the brain. It also has an electroencephalography cap, which can measure electrical activity in the brain.According to the Yahoo, John Donoghue, director of the Wyss Center said that he and his team built plans to develop the technology and aim to communicate better with paralyzed patients.

According to the CNN, the brain computer could only decipher mental states for yes or no were different due to oxygenation changes, but the system could not decipher specific letters or words. Researchers found that patients answered yes or no questions 70 percent correctly. Some researchers use implantable brain chips or blinking as a way to communicate, however, this is not applicable to all because some paralyzed patients lost control over their eye movements.

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