Stephen Hawking Could Speak Again With Help of New Device

Wednesday, 04 Apr 2012 03:08 PM

By Michelle Lopata

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A tiny device resembling a black headband may allow Stephen Hawking to communicate with just his mind, reports The New York Times.

iBrain, a device the size of a matchbook that uses algorithms intended to monitor and diagnose a variety of conditions including sleep apnea, depression, and autism, may by the key for Hawking to communicate.

Neuroscientist Philip Low, head of the team behind iBrain, told The New York Times that iBrain is able to collect necessary data in real time while the patient is sleeping comfortably in their own bed or while watching TV by using a single channel to pick up brain waves that change with different activities or thoughts.

“The idea is to see if Stephen can use his mind to create a consistent and repeatable pattern that a computer can translate into, say, a word or letter or a command for a computer,” Dr. Low told The Times.

Currently, in order to communicate, Hawking uses a pair of infrared glasses that picks up twitches in his cheek, a device his team calls the “cheek switch,” which can take up to several minutes.

“Dr. Low and his company have done some outstanding work in this field,” Hawking said in a statement. “I am participating in this project in the hope that I can offer insights and practical advice to NeuroVigil. I wish to assist in research, encourage investment in this area, and, most importantly, to offer some future hope to people diagnosed with A.L.S. and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Low and his team plan to partner up with Hawking again over the summer to present their initial data at a neuroscience meeting in July.

Hawking is a longtime sufferer of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (A.L.S.), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has left him paralyzed and has affected his ability to communicate.




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