Scientists have now found a new method for helping people with disabilities to communicate their thoughts – handwriting.
It has been found that brain activity is associated with trying to write letters by hand. Researchers decided to test this theory out by having a person with paralysis attempt to write whilst they hooked him up to sensors implanted in the brain. The system then displayed the text on screen.
“The innovation could, with further development, let people with paralysis rapidly type without using their hands”Krishna Shenoy, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Stanford University and a joint supervisor with Jaimie Henderson, a Stanford Neurosurgeon
Generally when a person becomes paralyzed, although they lose the ability to move a certain part of their body, the actions that can be done with the use of the brain’s neural activity still remain. And researchers can tap into this to help people with paralysis and amputations to have a second chance at life.
Now Frank Willet, a researcher who was a part of Shenoy’s research team had come up with the idea to use pen and paper, since it would be a new way to help people communicate faster.
The team had a participant who was 65 years old at the time of research, put into a clinical trial called BrianGate2, which tests the safety of BCIs that relay information from a person’s brain to a computer. Henderson implanted two sensors which controlled the hand and arm to relay the information needed for the brain signals to attempt text being converted into writing. As he was paralyzed from the neck down, the results of the system were of the same speed and accuracy similar to someone his age using a smartphone for texting.
The next step in development is to work with someone who cannot speak and then further bring it along to people who suffer from paralysis due to multiple conditions.
“This technology and others like it have the potential to help people with all sorts of disabilities.Though the findings are preliminary, he says, “it’s a big advancement in the field”Jose Carmena, a neural engineer at the University of California, Berkeley (not involved in the study)
Howard Hughes Medical Institute. (2021, May 12). Brain computer interface turns mental handwriting into text on screen. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 18, 2021 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210512115648.htm