Ground-breaking Device Enables Contact with Locked-in State Patients

Part-supported through the EU-funded LUMINOUS project, neuroscientists have developed a revolutionary brain-computer interface with those in complete locked-in state (CLIS).

black hole, Carbon dioxide, genes, Alzheimer, Brain-computer interfaces, graphene, immune system, topology, climate change, Twin Embryos, blue brain, climate change, human genome, mature B cell neoplasia, artificial iris, autonomous robot, chemotherapy, tidal energy, Nanomedicine, ecosystem, Mycotoxins, obesity, methylisation, deep drilling, brain scans, volcanic gas, biocatalyst enzymes, earthquakes, detectors, robotics, asthma sufferers, infrastructure, olive trees, solar energy, satellites, olive oil, robotic arms, zika virus, locked-in state, digital detox, climate change, climate, stroke, The new production method was developed by engineers at the University of Exeter. It consists in creating entire device arrays directly on the copper substrates used for the commercial production of graphene, after which complete and fully-functional devices can be transferred to a substrate of choice. This process has been demonstrated by producing a flexible and completely transparent graphene oxide-based humidity sensor. Not only does this device outperform currently-available commercial sensors, but it’s also cheap and easy to produce using common wafer-scale or roll-to-roll manufacturing techniques. ‘The conventional way of producing devices using graphene can be time-consuming, intricate and expensive and involves many process steps including graphene growth, film transfer, lithographic patterning and metal contact deposition,’ explains Prof David Wright from Exeter's Engineering department. ‘Our new approach is much simpler and has the very real potential to open up the use of cheap-to-produce graphene devices for a host of important applications from gas and bio-medical sensors to touch-screen displays.’ One of team’s main objectives was to increase the range of surfaces that graphene devices can be put on. Whilst the demonstrated humidity sensor was integrated in a plasdinosaur, dieting, coral, dengue epidemics, vaccines, thermal energy, artificial intelligence, Cloudlightning, Memristors, Sensory Tool, HIV, autonomous robot, offshore renewable energy, Wearable robots, processors, Artificial, climate, plasmons, Antarctica’s ice, cryogenic preservation

In 2009, Richard Marsh, a retired police officer suffered a massive stroke and doctors wanted to switch off his life-support. He could hear their every word but could not yell out that he was alive. The doctors simply believed he was in a permanent state of vegetation and devoid of physical feeling or mental consciousness. But Richard was very much alive and alert to every touch. ‘I had full cognitive and physical awareness but an almost complete paralysis of nearly all the voluntary muscles in my body,’ says Richard.

Miraculously, thanks to the stubbornness of his wife not to quit, Richard was able to walk out of his long-term care facility four months later. And has recovered 95 % of his functionality. ‘They don’t know why I recovered because they don’t know why I had locked-in [syndrome] in the first place or what really to do about it. Lots of the doctors and medical experts I saw didn’t even know what locked-in was. No one really knew anything,’ shared Richard.

Up until now, communication has remained nigh on impossible for persons suffering from complete motor paralysis but intact cognitive and emotional processing, a state referred to as complete locked-in state (CLIS).

Thanks to a brain-reading device developed by doctors, locked-in patients will now be able to hold very basic conversations. ‘This is the first time we’ve been able to establish reliable communication with these patients. I can say that after 30 years of trying to achieve this, it was one of the most satisfying moments of my life when it worked,’ shared Niels Birbaumer, the neuroscientist who led the research at the University of Tübingen, Germany.

Four patients aged 24 to 76 and diagnosed with CLIS completed over 60 sessions spread over several weeks answering personal questions with known answers and open questions all requiring a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. The findings shared in the ‘Plos Biology’ journal demonstrate how the paralysed can indeed answer simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions wearing a cap that uses infrared light to spot variations and patterns in blood flow in different regions of the brain which are ultimately deciphered by a computer.

‘It’s the first sign that completely locked-in syndrome may be abolished forever, because with all of these patients, we can now ask them the most critical questions in life,’ underlined Birbaumer.

Such results are, potentially, the first step towards abolition of completely locked-in states, at least for patients with advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). For his next project, Birbaumer now aims to create a system allowing patients to communicate more proactively, rather than merely through simple-answer questions.

The LUMINOUS project has received just under EUR 4 million to study, model, quantify, and alter observable aspects of consciousness and advance the crucial development of cognitive sciences. It will run until August 2019.

Source: Based on information from CORDIS.