BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new study proves that scientists might have made one of the most revolutionary discoveries. This discovery found a solution for people with “locked-in syndrome”e to communicate.
Patients with “locked-in syndrome” are conscious, but they are completely paralyzed and not able to communicate, they cannot even more their eyes. This discovery is a device that measures the blood flow and brain waves and allowed four patients with the syndrome to communicate using yes or no questions.
There patients suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease (or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS) were able to answer questions on geography, recognize the names of their family members, and even admitted to be thankful they were alive.
The lead author of the study was Niels Birbaumer, neuroscientist at the Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering in Geneva, Switzerland. He declared that the family members of the patients were more than relieved to hear the outcome of the experiment.
The ALS disease destroys those nerve cells that are responsible with movement that are found in the brain and spinal cord. With the advance of the disease, the patients lose the ability to speak or even breathe. If they agree to be on artificial ventilation, the patients can stay alive, but they remain cut off from the world.
Since 1999, Birbaumer and his team of researchers looks for ways to help these patients communicate. They developed some programs for some ALS patients that still had the ability to move their eyes. However, the methods were not helpful for those who had lost their movement completely.
Now, they developed a cap that can perform near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and electroencephalography (EEG) to read the patients’ electrical activity in the brain and also the changes in the oxygen level in their blood. Then, using yes or no questions, they learned how these answers are marked by the measured patterns.
These patterns were consistent about 70 percent of the time, when the researchers moved to questions related to their will to live, their physical state, or others.
However, they need to verify the device on more patients in order to establish if they can apply it and return perfectly accurate results. Yet it is a big discovery and this might help paralyzed people with no ability to speak communicate with their family members.
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