Monday, 26 October 2020

Brain-computer interface technology helps paralyzed patient say ‘Hello’

Photo Courtesy of Wang Gang

BEIJING: A paralyzed man who could only communicate by blinking his eyes, used a brain implant to say “Hello” through a computer, reportedly the first in the world, which touched medical staff at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

The brain-computer interface (BCI) technology was developed by the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University, in conjunction with the School of Mechanical Engineering under Xi ‘an Jiaotong University, and has attracted a lot of attention.

The patient, whose spinal cord was damaged in a fall, can only communicate with doctors by blinking. Using BCI technology, the patient can “speak” his thoughts by looking at a computer screen that is pulsating with characters or pinyin.

“This is the first case in medical history around the world, according to our research. To say ‘Hello’ is just the first successful step. We are planning to expand the language menu and help patients express themselves through BCI technology,” Wang Gang, the deputy director of ICU department at the hospital, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

From ‘Hello’ to better communication

BCI uses electrodes to collect bioelectrical signals generated by brain activity, and then processes and analyzes the signals through a computer to decode signals such as movement and vision, to achieve human-computer interaction, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

BCI technology has been widely used in education, military, medicine and other fields.

BCI can be used to diagnose neurological diseases, predict and suppress the onset of epilepsy and in the recovery of stroke patients.

However, using BCI to help critical care patients has been limited. The simple “hello” represents a big step forward in the use of BCI in critical care patients, Wang said.

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