Monday, 2 Oct 2023

Scientists create mind-reader that allows patients to say yes or no by thought

A top Brit scientist and his team has created a mind-reader that allows people to answer yes or no by thought alone.

The headset scanner is designed to help patients in a vegetative state make decisions over their care.

It can be used at a hospital bedside and worked three out of four times in tests on 21 healthy volunteers.

Doctors currently ask families to make heart-breaking decision over a patient’s care after they are left near brain-dead.

Professor Adrian Owen said a shocking one in four people who suffer massive brain injuries have the plug pulled within days from coming into intensive care.

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The academic, who made global headlines when he showed a car crash victim believed to be brain dead knew who and where he was in 2012, said: “A decision will typically be made in the first 10 days about whether to go on or pull the plug.

“Life would be so much easier if you could just ask the person.”

His team’s latest study asked the volunteers to imagine playing tennis to say “yes” and stay relaxed for “no” to four questions.

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It is the first time “mental communication” had been done on healthy participants.

The six women and 15 men, aged 24 to 40, were asked: “Do you have any brothers? Do you have any sisters? Are you at St. Joseph’s Hospital? Are you feeling cold right now?”

The researchers at the University of Western Ontario used a scanning technique called time-resolved functional near-infrared spectroscopy.

It is better than traditional brain scans at probing at specific areas within the brain and recorded “yes” by detecting increased blood flow in an area that lights up when thinking about sports.

His team’s findings have been published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

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