Woman Paralyzed by ALS Can Communicate Again With a Speech Computer Controlled by Her Mind

Researchers at UMC Utrecht have given a brave woman who is completely paralyzed by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and subsequent Locked-In Syndrome, an amazing opportunity to be able communicate once again with a speech computer that she wirelessly controls with her brain via implanted electrodes. This incredible breakthrough device operates uniquely and is the first of its kind in the world.

The patient operates the speech computer by moving her fingers in her mind. This changes the brain signal under the electrodes. That change is converted into a mouse click. On a screen in front of her she can see the alphabet, plus some additional functions such as deleting a letter or word and selecting words based on the letters she has already spelled. The letters on the screen light up one by one. She selects a letter by influencing the mouse click at the right moment with her brain. That way she can compose words, letter by letter, which are then spoken by the speech computer. This technique is comparable to actuating a speech computer via a push-button (with a muscle that can still function, for example, in the neck or hand). So now, if a patient lacks muscle activity, a brain signal can be used instead.