Man With ALS Uses Brain Implant to Request Tool


If you were unable to speak due to an illness or disability, and you were suddenly given the chance to communicate, what would you say? Would you sing the praises of the doctors who helped you, and tell your family you loved them — or would you ask to hear some killer prog riffs? One ALS sufferer has answered that question, having used an experimental brain implant to say that he loves his son — and to request to hear Tool.

According to Science.org, as reported by The PRP, a man suffering from the neurological disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, had an electrode array implanted into the part of his brain that controls movement. Over time, the researchers mapped out a system of communication which allowed the man to “speak,” albeit slowly. And what’d he do? He asked for Tool.

Here’s what the report says:

‘After nearly 3 months of unsuccessful efforts, the team tried neurofeedback, in which a person attempts to modify their brain signals while getting a real-time measure of whether they are succeeding. An audible tone got higher in pitch as the electrical firing of neurons near the implant sped up, lower as it slowed. Researchers asked the participant to change that pitch using any strategy. On the first day, he could move the tone, and by day 12, he could match it to a target pitch. “It was like music to the ear,” [biomedical engineer Ujwal] Chaudhary recalls. The researchers tuned the system by searching for the most responsive neurons and determining how each changed with the participant’s efforts.

By holding the tone high or low, the man could then indicate “yes” and “no” to groups of letters, and then individual letters. After about 3 weeks with the system, he produced an intelligible sentence: a request for caregivers to reposition him. In the year that followed, he made dozens of sentences at a painstaking rate of about one character per minute: “Goulash soup and sweet pea soup.” “I would like to listen to the album by Tool loud.” “I love my cool son.”’

But wait — which album did he request? Which album? A dude who uses this rare technology to listen to Opiate is VERY different from one who uses it to listen to Lateralus!

We kid, of course. We’re glad the patient was able to communicate, even if we would’ve used these implants to request The Black Dahlia Murder.

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