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WRITER FUEL: Reaching People With “Locked In Syndrome”

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For the first time, a patient in a completely locked-in state due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was able to communicate verbally using a brain-computer interface, according to a new study.

This technology allowed the patient, a 37-year old man with ALS, to communicate by forming words and phrases, despite not having any voluntary muscle control. The system involved implanting a device with microelectrodes into the patient’s brain, and using a custom computer software to help translate his brain signals.

ALS — also known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease — is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that affects the neurons responsible for the control of voluntary muscle movements. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) (opens in new tab), this disease causes the degeneration and eventual death of these nerve cells, affecting a person’s ability to walk, talk, chew and swallow.

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