As a result of a brain implant, an individual who was previously unable to communicate owing to the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) may now “talk,” according to research article published in the journal Science today. It is possible to communicate nonverbally using eye motions, such as choosing Yes or No replies or spelling out words using an eye tracking camera. Nevertheless, when the situation worsens, even the smallest amount of eye movement may be impossible, making these treatments ineffective.
How does the microchip work?
As Science points out, although a brain implant that lets patients who have lost muscular control or are on a ventilator maintain some degree of expression might be beneficial for research and the patient’s general well-being, there are numerous ethical considerations to consider. Whether a patient consents to surgery but later loses their capacity to speak, they have no way of telling anybody if their choice has changed. In addition, complicated talks are almost impossible because of the implant’s limits.
Engineers inserted two square electrode arrays in the man’s brain, which regulates his mobility. Once the system was up and running, scientists started looking for brain signals that might be most effectively utilized for interpretation. A more reliable approach was developed after many failed efforts at movement signaling. The patient would utilize the implant to try to match the pitch of a tone being produced.
A “Yes” or “No” answer could be indicated by holding the tone at varying levels, and subsequently, particular letters were added. It took a long time for him to be able to speak in whole phrases as a result of this. In reality, each character takes around a minute to write, which works out to nearly 30 minutes or more for a whole phrase.
Over time, the implant’s efficacy has decreased as well, but the reasons for this are still unclear. This may be due to a buildup of scar tissue surrounding the implant or the illness progressing and taking a toll on the patient’s brain, according to researchers. The technological and ethical implications of these implants are still being debated, so they are unlikely to be available to all ALS sufferers very soon.