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A Tweeting Brain
Sharon Begley

For patients suffering from locked-in syndrome, in which they are completely paralyzed and able to do no more than blink their eyes, the greatest hope is not walking, not feeding themselves, not anything else having to do with moving: it is communicating. (An episode of House last month did a good job of depicting the horror of locked-in syndrome, which can be caused by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, brain-stem stroke or high spinal cord injury.) Hence the intense research effort to build brain-computer interfaces (BCI) for such patients. As a 2007 publication from the National Institutes of Health described a BCI system being developed there, “eight electrodes hitched to the computer . . . record the user’s electrical brain waves, which the computer analyzes and translates into specific commands, such as writing emails, selecting computer icons, or moving robotic devices. No surgery is required and users typically master the system within an hour or two.” . .


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