Completely ‘Locked-in’ Patients Answer Questions

Published On:February 1, 2017, 11:10 am

Completely ‘Locked-in’ Patients Answer QuestionsScientists have proved that patients who have no control over their body movements have finally been able to communicate.

In the form of a basic yes or no question, a brain computer interface was used to read and understand the thoughts of patients.

The study was done on four patients in Switzerland, wherein one man was constantly able to refuse permission for his daughter to get married. The results also witnessed that the patients were happy in spite of being trapped in the effects of ‘locked-in’.

All of the patients who volunteered to be a part of the study suffered from advanced forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a condition in which the brain loses all the ability to control the muscles of the body.

It ultimately traps people in their own body, meaning they are able to think, however not capable of moving or talking.

When they are in the ‘locked-in’ state it is yet possible to produce ways to communicate using just eye movements.

Nevertheless, all the patients involved in the study held at the Wyss Centre in Switzerland, were in "completely locked in" condition and could not even move their eyes.

Signals in the Brain

The constant activity of the brain cells alters the levels of oxygen in the blood and this as a result changes the colour of the blood.

It was possible for the medical scientists to gaze inside the patients’ brain with the help of light to determine the colour of the blood, via a procedure called near-infrared spectroscopy.

Later they asked a few yes or no questions to the patient; such as "Your husband's name is Joachim?" this was done in order to train a computer to understand the brain signals.

There was about 75% accuracy received. The questions had to be asked repeatedly so as to be certain of a patient’s answer.

One of the researchers named Professor Ujwal Chaudhary mentioned that, "It makes a great difference to their quality of life. Imagine if you had no means of communicating and then you could say yes or no - it makes a huge impact."

One of the cases involved was a daughter wanting blessings of her father who was in a complete locked-in condition prior to getting married to her boyfriend.

The communication medium is being used for more of practical situations where in everyday activities are involved such as wanting to know if the patient was in pain or wanted to see a family member.

The director of the Wyss Centre, Professor John Donoghue said in a statement that, "If a person who is totally locked-in is able to communicate; you're freeing the mind to interact with the world around them. That is remarkable."

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