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Man Suffering From ALS Uses Experimental Brain Implant To Request To Hear A Tool Album


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Thanks to an experimental brain implant, a now 36-year-old man suffering from the neurological disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) was able to communicate some of his thoughts.  He first study consented to try out the device in question while he still retained control of his eyes, allowing him to signal his approval. His family also agreed to the procedure.

According to science.org, the procedure involved two square electrode arrays being inserted into the part of his brain that controls movement. After several months of calibration and mapping out a system of communication, the researchers managed to establish a method in which they could converse using neurofeedback.

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Per the article, the aforementioned man was then able to express his love for his son and make a request: to hear an album from Tool ‘loud’. The aforementioned article didn’t specify which album or whether or not the research team obliged him.

Here’s what was said of that:

‘After nearly 3 months of unsuccessful efforts, the team tried neurofeedback, in which a person attempts to modify their brain signals while getting a real-time measure of whether they are succeeding. An audible tone got higher in pitch as the electrical firing of neurons near the implant sped up, lower as it slowed. Researchers asked the participant to change that pitch using any strategy. On the first day, he could move the tone, and by day 12, he could match it to a target pitch. “It was like music to the ear,” Chaudhary recalls. The researchers tuned the system by searching for the most responsive neurons and determining how each changed with the participant’s efforts.

By holding the tone high or low, the man could then indicate “yes” and “no” to groups of letters, and then individual letters. After about 3 weeks with the system, he produced an intelligible sentence: a request for caregivers to reposition him. In the year that followed, he made dozens of sentences at a painstaking rate of about one character per minute: “Goulash soup and sweet pea soup.” “I would like to listen to the album by Tool loud.” “I love my cool son.”’

While the implant did present some major breakthroughs, it isn’t without its limitations and thus far remains an experimental technology. However, given the encouraging results above, the researchers hope to raise funding to administer similar implants to several other patients in the years to come.

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