Locked-in syndrome is a condition whereby patients are aware of their surroundings, but cannot communicate verbally due to complete paralysis. The only movements they can manage are the eyes, blinking and vertical eye movements.
The study, which was relatively small, consisted of four patients with the condition three women and one man and the results were very encouraging. The brain reading cap uses a system called FNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy), which is equipped with an infrared light that can detect blood flow in the brain. The first questions the neuroscientists asked the patients were simple 'yes' or 'no' type questions to determine which blood flow signaled yes and which one signaled no.
Once the team attained an accuracy of about 70%, they then started having simple conversations while getting their replies from the brain cap.
"In some cases, eye movement can be used for communication," researcher Ujwal Chaudhary said. "However, once eye movement is gone for a person suffering from locked-in syndrome, there is no means of communication. That's where we come in".
The next step according to researchers will be to develop a communication system that uses the brain sensing cap to allow patients with locked-in syndrome to speak proactively. This will be possible in the next few years according to the researchers.