Brain-controlled device offers new hope for stroke patients

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TIANJIN, May 27: A stroke patient who donned a brain electrode cap was attempting to lift a bottle from the table using her fingers and an additional “sixth finger” device mounted on the wrist. “Try again, focus your attention, and see if you can lift the bottle,” said a neurological physician encouragingly. With each attempt — once, twice, thrice, — the patient who had been unable to grip a pen witnessed the bottle slowly detach from the tabletop. The expression transformed from initial despair to incredulous astonishment, culminating in a moment as tears brimmed in her eyes.

A patient with tetraplegia is guided by the research team to accomplish thought-controlled cursor movement on a computer screen at his home in Beijing, capital of China, Feb. 23, 2024.(Xinhua)

Wang Zhuang, a third-year doctoral student and a member of the neural engineering team at Tianjin University, intently watched the patient and the “sixth finger” device on her hand, while meticulously recording every fluctuation in the data. The team has crafted an innovative finger-worn device, leveraging non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to harness the patient’s brainwaves, enabling stroke patients to mentally “command” an extra digit. Also, the device serves to revitalize the patients’ compromised central and peripheral nervous systems, thereby facilitating the rehabilitation of hand motor functions. The BCI, a technology heralding the future, is swiftly emerging as a focal point for global investment.

Scientists and engineers are eager to integrate this pioneering tech into the realm of medical practice, embracing a new era of therapeutic possibilities. “Stroke stands as a significant threat to the health of our nation’s populace, often leaving patients with varying levels of physical impairment,” said Wang. “Our aspiration is to harness the power of technology to offer them enhanced opportunities for a life of completeness and fulfillment,” he added. In January, a Chinese clinical team from Xuanwu Hospital had implanted a wireless processor into the skull of a paralyzed man, and this significantly assisted him to recover his motor skills, including drinking a bottle of water on his own. (Xinhua)

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