An ALS Patient with complete paralysis has used a new brain implant to ask to hear a Tool album.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) destroys the nerves that control movement. As the disease progresses, patients can use an eye-tracking camera to select letters on a screen and as the effects get more severe, they can answer yes-or-no questions with subtle eye movements. After that, many are left in a “locked-in” state, unable to communicate.
However, the patient in question began working with a research team at the University of Tübingen in 2018. At the time, he could still move his eyes and told the team he wanted “an invasive implant to try to maintain communication with his family, including his young son,” according to Science.org.
In a world-first, the implant has since allowed the “locked-in” patient to select letters to form sentences. At first, the neural signals weren’t consistent enough to answer yes-or-no questions but after pivoting to neurofeedback, in which a person attempts to modify their brain signals while getting a real-time measure of whether they are succeeding, they saw some success.
Whoa! A brain implant that enables a patient with ALS to communicate. https://t.co/e1akNj5hUM
— Dr. Brian Goldman (@NightShiftMD) March 23, 2022
After a year of work, the patient was able to form complete sentences, at a rate of around one letter a minute. These included “Goulash soup and sweet pea soup” and “I love my cool son”.
The patient also said: “I would like to listen to the album by Tool loud.”
Wyss Center researchers have continued to work with the patient, but his ability to spell has decreased and he mostly answers yes-or-no questions now. Scar tissue around the implant has started obscuring the neural signals however the research team has committed to maintaining the device as long as the patient continues to use it.
Jonas Zimmermann, a neuroscientist involved in the study said: “There’s this huge responsibility. We’re quite aware of that.”
Tool have just wrapped up a North American headline tour and kick off their delayed run of UK and European shows next month.
Tickets can be found here and the dates are as follows:
23 – Copenhagen, Royal Arena
25 – Oslo, Spektrum
26 – Stockholm, Avicii Arena
28 – Hamburg, Barclaycard Arena
29 – Frankfurt, Festhalle
2 – Manchester, AO Arena
4 – Birmingham, Resorts World Arena
6 – Dublin, 3Arena
9 – London, The O2
12 – Paris, AccorHotels Arena
13 – Antwerp, Sportpaleis
15 – Berlin, Mercedes-Benz Arena
17 – Cologne, Lanxess Arena
19 – Amsterdam, Ziggo Dome
21 – Krakow, Tauron Arena
23 – Prague, O2 Arena
24 – Budapest, SportAréna
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