ALS Patient Uses Experimental Brain Implant To Request Tool

According to Science.org, a 36-year-old ALS patient was recently given an experimental brain implant in an effort to help him communicate. The technology allowed him to express a number of his thoughts including his love for his son, his desire to listen to an unspecified Tool album at a loud volume, and more.

The report said the following:

‘After nearly 3 months of unsuccessful efforts, the team tried neurofeedback, in which a person attempts to modify their brain signals while getting a real-time measure of whether they are succeeding. An audible tone got higher in pitch as the electrical firing of neurons near the implant sped up, lower as it slowed. Researchers asked the participant to change that pitch using any strategy. On the first day, he could move the tone, and by day 12, he could match it to a target pitch. “It was like music to the ear,” Chaudhary recalls. The researchers tuned the system by searching for the most responsive neurons and determining how each changed with the participant’s efforts.

By holding the tone high or low, the man could then indicate “yes” and “no” to groups of letters, and then individual letters. After about 3 weeks with the system, he produced an intelligible sentence: a request for caregivers to reposition him. In the year that followed, he made dozens of sentences at a painstaking rate of about one character per minute: “Goulash soup and sweet pea soup.” “I would like to listen to the album by Tool loud.” “I love my cool son.”’

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