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article imageNew brain implant for ALS patients

By Tim Sandle     Dec 10, 2016 in Science
Amsterdam - People who have Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS-Lou Gehrig’s) lose muscle function and eventually require continual care. A new implant has been developed by University Medical Center researchers that could help those with the condition.
While Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis suffer with a loss of physical mobility they remain intellectually sharp. Often this is hard to express and the term ‘locked in’ is sometimes applied. To assist those with the condition, researchers from Utrecht have devised a technological implant that could be ground-breaking.
A trial has taken place on a patient called Hanneke de Bruijne. From Holland. The patient is unable to move or speak. To trial the device, she underwent surgery and had electrodes fitted into the motor cortex area of her brain.
The electrodes are connected to a tiny transmitter located by her collarbone. In turn, this leads to a receiver connected to a computer screen with letters. When Hanneke wishes to communicate she observes a cursor hovering over the computer display letters. When the cursor reaches a letter that she wishes to use her brain sends a signal and the letter is selected. The process is slow but effective, and Hanneke can ‘type’ at a rate of two letters per minute. The limiting factor is not Hanneke’s thought processes but the computer-cursor function.
This process has taken considerable research and time, but now it is established it could be rolled out to many ALS sufferers. Describing the success, chief scientist Professor Nick Ramsey explains: “This is a major breakthrough in achieving self-communication in severely crippled patients or those with paralysis caused by ALS, cerebral hemorrhage or trauma. In fact, this patient has been a kind of remote control. Thus she can, without using her muscles, operate a computer voice.”
The device will be tested out on further ALS patients and then be made available worldwide. Further details are shown in the following video:
The research has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The paper is titled “Fully Implanted Brain–Computer Interface in a Locked-In Patient with ALS.”
More about brain implant, Brain, Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis, Als, Lou Gehrigs
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