If you could only communicate at the rate of one character per minute, what would you ask for? In the case of a 36-year-old man with brain implant as his only way to communicate, the answer was a beer, a curry, to listen to Tool “loud,” and a head massage from his mother. The man, who suffers from ALS, had two electrodes implanted in his brain in March 2019 with the help of doctors at the Wyss Center in Geneva.
The man is completed paralyzed, to the point he can’t even move his, so other communication tools that read eye motion do not work for him anymore. Before his eyes became paralyzed in 2018, he was able to scan words on a computer screen to get his message across.
“Ours is the first study to achieve communication by someone who has no remaining voluntary movement and hence for whom the BCI is now the sole means of communication,” Dr. Jonas Zimmermann, a senior neuroscientist at the Wyss Center, told the Independent.
“This study answers a long-standing question about whether people with complete locked-in syndrome – who have lost all voluntary muscle control, including movement of the eyes or mouth – also lose the ability of their brain to generate commands for communication.”
It took three months after the brain implant went in for the man to be able to answer yes or no questions through brain signals, and another three weeks before he could transmit sentences. Eventually, the man was able to transmit more complex and thoughts, and the brain implant allowed him to reconnect with his wife and 4-year-old son.
After messages like, “For food I want to have curry with potato then Bolognese and potato soup,” he was able to send his most important message: “I love my cool son.”