A brain-computer interface records “yes” and “no” answers in patients who lack any voluntary muscle movement.

Read the full article at: www.technologyreview.com

Scientific and technological advances speed toward us like a car in the black of night, headlights flashing its unrelenting approach. We can respond like the proverbial deer and stand immobile, or we can shield our eyes, move away and find better perspective.  But in both cases, we run the risk of getting hit.  Cyber space, robots, artificial intelligence, climate change, genome mapping – maybe the Twilight Zone is our reality.  It can be unnerving, a little scary.

And then, we hear about an advancement that brings nothing but joy and gratitude.  And maybe, a few tears.   This is the story of such an advancement.

Imagine being paralyzed and unable to speak“locked-in” as the syndrome is aptly called. A horrifying prospect to most of us. Yet, people live “locked-in” for months and years, and their families live through the struggle with them – communicating, perhaps, through patterned blinks of an otherwise staring eye.

Now imagine the joy when “researchers in Europe say they’ve found out the answer after using a brain-computer interface to communicate with four people completely locked in after losing all voluntary movement due to Lou Gehrig’s disease…the brain-computer interface fits on a person’s head like a swimming cap and measures changes in electrical waves emanating from the brain and also blood flow using a technique known as near-infrared spectroscopy.”

According to neuroscientist Niels Birbaumer, who designed the device, three out of the four patients when questioned, said they were happy.  “ ‘The relief was enormous’ for family members who were able to communicate with their loved ones after as many as four years of total silence, and to learn they wished to remain alive on ventilators.”

Gratitude and tribute.  To science and to the human spirit.