Paralyzed man communicates simple sentences using brain activity interface

A A paralyzed German has learned to communicate simple sentences using his brain activity through a newly developed brain-computer interface.

The device allowed him to communicate simple requests, such as “massages”, “soup” or “beer”. This is the first time a paralyzed person has used a neural interface to communicate actual words, according to a new study.

“We didn’t do this for fun, or to advance technology, or to publish papers,” said German neuroscientist Niels Birbaumer. New statistics Tuesday. “We do these things because we want these people to be alive, even though society doesn’t want them to be.”


The patient was a 30-year-old German diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2015, according to the article published in Nature Communication Tuesday. ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a rare neurodegenerative disease that slowly destroys the neurons that manage motor skills. The disease progressed rapidly, with the man losing his ability to speak and move. He has also been using a ventilator for breathing since July 2016, according to MIT Technology Review.

While the man initially used eye tracking devices to communicate, his condition deteriorated in 2017 to the point where eye movement was no longer viable. His family sought help from neuroscientists Niels Birbaumer and Ujwal Chaudhary, who ran the nonprofit tech group ALS Voice gGmbH.

As the pair tried to improve the man’s eye movement tracking hardware, this method became untenable as he slowly lost control of his ability to move his eyes. Scientists have proposed installing an electrode in his brain as a last resort that would allow him simple communication options by translating brain activity levels into rising or falling tones. Man first used these tones to communicate simple notions, such as “yes” and “no”. However, Birbaumer and Chaudhary eventually extended tones to a system that allowed humans to spell.

With a little time and training, the man quickly figured out how to convey simple messages, researchers said. The first sentence of the man translated as “boys, it works so easily”. He also used technology to ask his family members to watch movies with him, ask for food and express his desire for a bigger bed.


The researchers hope to develop a catalog of frequently used words to allow the software to automatically complete words and phrases for humans, Chaudhary said.

Birbaumer was accused of scientific misconduct. Its claims that it would provide communication tools to completely paralyzed people were based on incomplete data and faulty results, Germany’s leading research body said. determined in 2019. Scholars who reviewed the paper described Birbaumer’s recently filed work as “legitimate, thorough, and detailed,” according to New statistics.