Scientists are getting closer and closer to creating an interface between the human brain and a computer that can translate what people are thinking. This is especially helpful for people who are unable to communicate, such as those with complete locked-in syndrome.
Image source: itv.com
Some researchers have tried to see if an interface that uses functional near-infrared spectroscopy, or NIRS, would work. Essentially, this method would measure brain hemodynamic responses that are usually associated with neuronal activity.
Scientists have tried to use brain-computer interfaces that depended on neuroelectrical tech, like an electroencephalogram, or EEG. The endeavor ultimately failed in its goal of helping completely locked-in syndrome patients communicate.
This latest technique though seemed to give hope to the study. It is a non-invasive brain-computer interface that combines the NIRS and EEG tech. This technique measures frontocentral blood oxygen levels, as well as electrical changes that occur in the brain. Although brain-computer interfaces in the past have helped patients communicate, the NIRS is the only technique that works on people with complete lock-in syndrome.
This also comes as great news for people who are unable to communicate, such as those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which can lead to paralysis later on, or those paralyzed because of a stroke or a spinal cord injury.
Image source: bbc.co.uk
Another encouraging fact to note is that this is merely the beginning, as such studies are projected to have broader applications in the future.
Dr. Curtis Cripe is a neuroengineer and the head of the Research and Development department of NTL group for advanced technology for brain and cognitive treatment and repair. To find out more about him and the NTL group, check out the blogs on this site.