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Scientists communicate with locked-in patients

Patients with complete locked-in syndrome experience paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body. For years, doctors and researchers believed that these people were unhappy with their quality of life and did not have the goal-directed thinking necessary to communicate.


Now, a groundbreaking study conducted by researchers at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland, has overturned those two common misconceptions. Patients with complete locked-in syndrome do obtain the goal-oriented thinking necessary to express their thoughts to others, and they say they’re «happy», despite their condition. In the study four individuals with complete locked-in syndrome were each fitted with a non-invasive brain-computer interface which uses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and electroencephalography (EEG) to measure blood oxygenation and electrical activity in the brain, as these are distinctly different if the patient thinks «yes» or «no». After calibration, the patients were able to respond to questions with a «yes» or «no» using their thoughts.

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