Did you see the show “60 Minutes” last night on CBS? The story is about how humans are using their minds to what will someday allow them to control their bodies. The story started with a neuroscientist, Scott Mackler, who at age 40 was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As a result he suffers from “locked in syndrome”. His brain is completely alert but he can’t move any part of his body except his eyes.
Through an invention called “Brain Computer Interface” (BCI), Scott can communicate through a computer. He wears a skull cap with electrodes that captures his thoughts. The information is then sent to a computer. He communicates by thinking of letters that make words and then the computer serves as Scott’s voice.
Next they showed a woman who had a stroke and also suffers from “locked in syndrome”. The researchers implanted a computer chip/receptor in her brain and then she’s hooked up to a computer via a plug on her head. By thinking thoughts she can move a mouse on a computer allowing her to communicate, play music, and answer e-mail.
The hope is that in the future this technology will allow paralysis patients, stroke patients, ALS patients, MS patients and any who lose function in their body to recapture some of what they lost. The biggest part of this process for Scott Mackler according to his wife is that it gave him some independence. Being able to communicate with others has allowed him to return to work where he can work on further advancements of this type of technology. Being able to communicate with loved ones is vital to quality of life. There’s no more guessing because the person using the device is truly thinking the thoughts.
I know we all get a bit freaked out by technology, but the truth is as we age and there are more toxins in the environment illness will continue. Inventions like the “Brain Computer Interface” won’t reverse the disease but works to thwart the immensely limiting impact on the patient’s existence. It may only be a glimmer of hope today, but fire was started by a spark and this is a huge spark!