In a first-of-its-kind study, a patient with late-stage ALS was able to use a brain implant to communicate using just his brain.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a terrible disease that affects the neurological system, and robs their ability to communicate, even with the current technology for the situation.

Throughout the course of the disease, the victim loses their ability to communicate like you and I would, but there is a solution through an eye-tracking camera that controls a voice system. Sadly, this isn't an end-of-life care solution for patients with the disease, because it robs them of that ability as well, and they can spend the last weeks, months, or even years of their lives unable to communicate with the rest of the world.

Science.org spells out the story of a 36-year-old man with ALS who began working with a research team in 2018 when he was still able to communicate through his eyes. He expressed interest in the longevity of being able to communicate with his family. So, he signed up for an experimental and invasive implantation surgery.

Doctors at Wyss Center placed a series of electrode arrays in the area of his brain where movement is controlled.

After several months of difficulty communicating with the man, the team turned to neurofeedback. Science.org explains what that is better than I could, saying it's when "a person attempts to modify their brain signals while getting a real-time measure of whether they are succeeding."

Over the course of a year, after many failed attempts, he was finally able to communicate. It was a breakthrough, but still frustrating, as he could only spell out one character per minute. After dozens of thoughts, he said two things:

"I love my cool son."

And

"I would like to listen to the album by Tool loud."

 

While the article from Science.org doesn't detail if his wish was met, after a year of busting his brain to get that out, surely they worked it out for him to hear what he wanted to hear.

"It's so cool," Melanie Fried-Oken, who studies brain-computer interface at Oregon Health & Science University, tells Science.org. "But we're nowhere near getting this into an assistive technology state that could be purchased by a family."

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