Brain Injury Patients Will Be Able To Communicate With Latest Technology

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Waqar Hassan
Waqar Hassan is a Blogger, Author and Entrepreneur who heads an IT & Web Company. He loves writing and manages several blogs including,,, and He can be followed @HassanGill on Twitter.
Waqar Hassan
Waqar Hassan
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Brain Injury Patients Will Be Able To Communicate With Latest Technology

Any severe accidents that take place on the road each day can result in brain injuries that either completely change a person’s life or take the life away consequently. Just like a computer, the human brain is a sensitive machine that’s why the nature put it in a hard skull. However, sudden jerks and big damages can still damage the soft and sensitive brain inside. The big problem with human brain is that it can’t be repaired as easily as you could repair a desktop computer. Scientists, doctors and engineers are working to this day to come up with some technology that could help quadriplegic victims in getting back to a normal life.

Some recent steps taken in improving the lifestyle of quadriplegic patients have proven to be revolutionary on a small scale and if things work fine, it is expected that making quadriplegic patients live normal lives is not far away. Have a look at the recent example of this amazing step up:

Computer Can Empower Damaged Brains

This article will revolve around patient T6. This patient, who happens to be a female, operated a laptop using just the pulses of her brain. The new technology let her use Android whereas she had been working to make her communication possible using a system from the 1980s. Lou Gehrig’s disease is what keeps her from moving and communicating like normal human beings. Also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, this amazing patient is fully paralyzed starting from her neck to her toes.

She could think but not communicate with the world. Such a condition comes when a person receives big damages to the spinal cord. Brain-machine interfaces were the only way to make that communication possible. Due to the paralysis of nearly entire body, these people are not able to speak. Due to paralysis being from neck-down, they can’t write to communicate too. It is only possible for such patients to have any connection to the outside world through revolutionary technology that could allow them to use other means to communicate than normal ones.

How Can Thoughts Within Brain Could Be Brought Out With Technology

It’s not that this challenge is new for medical scientists and engineers. They have been trying to take on this problem for quite some time now. The technology to make brain-machine interfaces possible saw its peak two decades ago. Engineers and medical scientists were working together to make it possible to connect brains with machines for the purpose of communication. Many inventions were made in pursuit of this objective but they were not put to use because their impracticality was always the issue. One of the many inventions allowed brain injury patients to communicate with people by moving their eyes as their eyes controlled the movement of a pointer on a computer screen just like a hand controls a mouse.

Accuracy was a huge concern for these devices. Due to their bad accuracy, the patients had to type many of the things again and again. This was a tiring process for them and so the inventions were considered impractical. There were some other problems other than this too. The equipment that was invented for these devices was so extraordinary that only the patients that came from wealthy backgrounds could afford it. Patients that did not have rich backgrounds were not going to get any help from such technologies. Even if efforts were made to make this technology affordable, the issue that it tired its users was going to remain there.

Coming from Stanford University, Paul Nuyujukian is a person who is always in touch with such technological advancements because he is a neuro-engineer himself. At a talk in 2015 that he made for annual conference of Society for Neuroscience he said that they were working on this technology day and night. The main objective for them was to cut the costs of the technology so it could be given access through clinics. Neural prosthesis was an idea they came up with while working on this task. It was not their mission to leave eye tracking technology behind and move to something more practical, affordable and sophisticated.

During their work they had observed that making a patient use an organ for communication was not efficient and practical. They wanted to create a connection right from brain to the machine. They had to use brain signals for this to happen. The brain signals had to be translated in a computer-understandable language for this. If this became a reality, eye tracking technology would become much inferior and unusable. The idea was great but its price was high too. Patient T6 was made a part of these experiments. They were now ready to work on their idea and make it a reality without a huge price tag.

BrainGate clinical trials were going to be conducted using the patient T6. Her consent was crucial in these experiments and it was obtained with ease as patient T6 wanted to see a change in her life. 100-channel electrode array was used to make a connection of her brain with the computer. Stanford subdivision was doing a parallel experiment with its keyboard with which was going to allow patients to type words without using any organ but the pulses of their brains. In short, both the experiments were similar to each other at some point.

A prototype of this keyboard was brought to use and patient T6 was again the main character in making this experiment successful. The pulses in her brain passed through neural prosthesis and then were translated to letters she wanted to type. She could do all this by simply looking at the letter. Once again, accuracy was a problem in this experiment and the tiring exercises of looking at words and removing them repeatedly did not prove this experiment to be a success. To Dr. Nuyujukian this system looked outdated and the presence of electrodes really bothered him.

The Magical Moment Came

Looking at the modern touchscreens the team involved in the experiment came up with a great idea. They realized that their system acted quite like a modern touchscreen did. They put this idea to good use and went ahead to invent their own touchscreen system. While in the process of doing this it came to them that they were working on something they did not have to i.e. touchscreen systems were already in the market so they didn’t have to create a new one. The device they put their hands on to carry out this experiment was Nexus 9 in this case.

The setup was now being prepared using the Nexus 9 tablet. They did not have to do much work in doing that because most of the things that they thought they had to do were already completed because they had bought the technology from the market. The system was complete in less than a year and the need of electrodes was removed from the system by putting Bluetooth technology to use. The neural prosthetics took signals from the brain and carried them to the tablet. The Bluetooth technology made the connection possible just like it does for a mouse connected with a tablet or laptop. The experiment was conducted by connecting the setup to patient T6.

The Moment Of Success

Short movie clips were made as patient T6 used the system to communicate with the device. Patient T6 was easily moving around on the internet using this technology. She started searching for the topics of her interest on Google with this technology and among many topics her favorite was gardening. Dr. Nuyujukian said that they could not help but smile at the fact that patient T6 now had the power to use Android apps like anyone in the world does. She was only thinking of the movements in her head and the setup was conveying messages to the tablet using Bluetooth – not at all tiring for the patient.

Of course, just like any other system this system will also expire after some time. However, the timeline given by the team for current system to expire is 2 years. For 2 years the patient T6 can continue to use the internet freely. While the setup is used the team is going to work on other things too. One of the many objectives for teams is to make the system even more durable. Dr. Nuyujukian commented by saying that they have finally created an affordable system and the available technology has made this possible. He said that the affordability of this system is going to allow them to bring this technology like regular equipment in clinics.

The team has now started moving ahead to make the technology better, more practical and easier to use for the patients. New features will be introduced and the current system’s limited use of point and click will be upgraded to dragging features as well. Multi-touch features will also be added to the system and while the equipment is only available at BrainGate clinical facilities, it will be spread to other regions to bring happiness to patients who need it. As of now, this particular system is only working with the Android operating system. The team wishes to make it usable for other operating systems as well. Progress is being made and the team wants to call it a complete system with all the features on it that they have only imagined.

Personal injury attorneys will now have a new chapter included in their information. They can now calculate the impact and costs of such a system in their personal injury cases too. Anyone who has received spinal cord and brain injuries resulting in paralysis of the body should talk about this program during the settlement of the case. Let us know of your story so more knowledge could be spread for people’s benefit.