Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Breakthrough Technology Enables Communication in Late Stage ALS

brain computer interface
For family member of the patients who are suffering from Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) will finally have a reason to rejoice. A new revolutionary technology has been developed by the scientists will have them getting back the communicational ability in a noble fashion. ALS is described as a rapidly progressive and intensely rare disease which results in patients gradually their complete motor functionality. It essentially leads to the degeneration as well as ultimate death of the motor neurons which removes the ability to move around or communicate at all.

More than two third trial patients responded correctly

A brain-computer interface (BCI) technology is developed by a team of doctors and scientists which is led by Prof. Nield Birbaumer in Geneva, Switzerland. The BCI technology takes advantage of the ‘functional near infrared spectroscopy’ (fNIRS) which has the ability to enable the communication even in the patients who are in completely locked in syndrome. Their study has been published in a reputed science magazine called PLOS Biology.

Four patients suffering from ALS agreed to be part of this revolutionary technology trial and led to its success. This technology specifically detected responses from the patients on a series of simple question which requires ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer by thinking the answers. This was done by carefully measuring the changes in the blood oxygen level of the brains. A number of earlier theories have cemented the understanding that patients suffering from locked’-n syndrome are completely unable to perform goal directed thinking but researchers found that their technology prompted in getting correct in 70% of the trials.

Technology set to bring a positive impact on human life

This technology was trialed on four patients suffering from the ALS and they were able to regain a kind of communicational ability wherein they provided valuable response to doctors questioning. All these patients are suffering from the locked-in syndrome where they can’t even move their eyelids to reflect any form of communication but this technology enabled them to communicate by carefully analyzing their breathing and other brain patterns. Doctors has emphasized that these patients were on artificial ventilation in order to sustain their as they were unable breathe on their own but their interaction with this technology resulted in positive impact.

The questions asked by the scientists to emit response from the patients were simply straight forward and easier to understand in nature. These questions included ‘Are you happy?” and other questions like that and this questioning was repeated over few weeks with answers being consistently ‘yes’. In one such session a family member of the patient insisted on asking a particular which was whether he would allow his daughter to be married with the boyfriend. This question was repeated over 10 times over different time period and the response was simply ‘no’ for 9 times altogether. One of the doctors associated with this technology and trial stressed that this technology is the first crucial step which help patients with locked in syndrome in regaining movement in future.

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