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Brain Chip Lets Victim of Stroke 'Talk' Again

The Toronto Star, October 21, 1998

U.S. doctor co-developed the break-through brain device.

Paralyzed man  communicates  through 'mouse' in his head

By  Lori Wiechman
Associated Press

ATLANTA - A Star Trek-type implant is allowing a paralyzed, mute
stroke victim to use his brainpower to move a cursor across a
screen and convey simple messages such as hello and goodbye.

Researchers believe it's the first device that allows direct
communication between the brain and a computer. 

Doctors implanted the device - about the size of the tip of a
ballpoint pen - into a 53-year-old man's brain. The device
amplifies his brain signals, which are then transmitted to a laptop
computer through an antenna-like coil placed on his head.

Like a computer mouse, the brain signals can move a cursor across
the computer screen and point at icons with messages such as "See
you later. Nice talking with you." The man can also use the cursor
to tell others that he's hungry or thirsty.

"It's like we're making the mouse the patient's brain," said Dr.
Roy Bakay, one of two Emory University doctors who developed the

Eventually, researchers hope to use the technology to teach
patients to write letters, send E-mail and turn lights off and on
via computer.

"It opens up a very exciting new chapter in rehabilitation for such
patients," said Dr. William Friedman, associate chair of
neurosurgery at the University of Florida.

The patient, identified only as J.R., suffered a brain-stem stroke
and is dependent on a ventilator at an Atlanta hospital. His brain
functions normally but its signals don't reach their intended

Six months ago, Bakay and Dr. Phillip Kennedy implanted a tiny
glass cone into the man's brain. A substance that encourages nerves
to grow prompted the brain's nerves to link with electrodes inside
the cone, forming what Bakay calls "a little brain" in the device.

The electrodes can transmit electrical impulses produced by the
brain to a computer.

To train J.R.'s brain, he was told to think about grabbing a glass.
The cone is implanted in an area of the brain that can produce
signals designed to cause movement.

Bakay and Kennedy have been testing the technology on animals for
12 years, and Kennedy has patented it.

The first human patient, a woman with from Lou Gehrig's disease,
was able to control computer signals for 76 days before she died.
J.R. is their second patient, and they have federal funding to
continue research another patient.

For more than a decade, some paralyzed people have communicated
with a computer program that translates their coded blinking into
letters on a screen. J.R. can blink, but "I think he enjoys doing
this," Bakay said.

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