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Breakthrough gadget converts thoughts into speech

Being trapped inside your mind with no control over your body would be terrifying, and, unfortunately, it does happen to some people. It's something called "locked-in syndrome" and is very often confused with a true vegetative state.

The main difference between locked-in syndrome and a vegetative state is that people in a vegetative state have no brain activity. Patients that suffer from locked-in syndrome have fully functioning brains and are aware of their surroundings, but they're literally locked inside their own body and unable to communicate. Until now.

Scientists have discovered a way to tell the difference between patients in a vegetative state and those with locked-in syndrome, and even a way for them to communicate to their loved ones.

Researchers have discovered that machines that monitor brain waves, like a large fMRI scanner, can detect the brain waves in a locked-in patient. Through the use of monitoring electrodes and asking "yes" and "no" questions, researchers can literally read the minds of locked-in patients.

According to the Daily Mail:

"Adrian Owen of Western University in London, Canada, has been developing a system that involves placing vibrating pads on someone's arm, and then asking them to focus on one vibrator. The idea is that paying attention to a sense-like vibration creates electrical signals in the brain that are much easier to read than eye movements."

You can see in the image below the difference between a yes and no answer when using the vibration method.


"'We already know that up to one in five of these patients are misdiagnosed as being unconscious and this new technique may reveal that that number is even higher,' said Lorina Naci, a researcher at the University of Western Ontario."

Instead of using the giant fMRI machines that are confined to rooms in a hospital, scientists have created mobile units that measure the brainwaves of locked-in patients with a helmet of sorts.

Other researchers have designed similar mind-reading technology, and soon this ability to read brain function accurately could even be small enough to fit in the palm of the hand.

What do you think about the future of health technology? I, for one, am looking forward to the future!

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