BCI Success Stories
Are BCIs Successful?
Last Updated on Saturday, 31 December 2011 16:27 Written by Brendan Allison Monday, 26 September 2011 08:47
This section contains "BCI Success Stories". Many people do not realize that BCIs have been successful in providing communication for many patients, nor the impact that it can have on their lives. We include a couple examples in the text below. However, this text is less persuasive than news clips that show patients using BCIs, and interviews with key researchers who describe firsthand how successful BCI communication affected patients' lives.
We have interviewed many stakeholders in BCI research, some of whom have told intense and heartwarming stories about the impact that BCI use can have on patients' lives. These videos are available under the "Roadmap" tab, along with three Success Stories (one of which is reproduced here). For example, go to the "Stakeholder Interviews" tab, view the interview with Dr. Femke Nijboer, and go to 8:40.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 March 2011 09:46 Written by Brendan Allison Friday, 23 April 2010 09:10
Dr. Scott Mackler is a neuroscientist who runs a research laboratory in Philadelphia. Dr. Mackler also has late stage Lou Gehrig's disease, and thus cannot communicate through normal channels. Dr. Mackler very quickly learned to use a BCI system developed by the Wolpaw lab in Albany, New York. This BCI system relied on the P300, a different type of brain signal than the BCI described in the first success story, which relied on the Slow Cortical Potential or SCP. P300 BCIs typically require only a few minutes of training, which is a major advantage over the SCP approach, which typically requires weeks or months of training. Many subtabs under the "About BCI" Tab include more information about different BCI approaches.
Dr. Mackler uses his P300 BCI both for personal and work communication. He is an interesting success story in many ways. One of them is that he could use a communication system based on an eye tracker, but prefers the BCI because he finds it easier to use. This shows that BCIs can provide alternative communication that is better than other assistive technology. Second, since he chose to reveal his identity and share his story on a major news program, he helped to gain positive attention for BCI research. Most people do not know that a BCI is even possible. Third, he helps to dispel the frustrating myth that patients with Lou Gehrig's disease do not need communication systems because they must be mentally incompetent. Obviously, running a neuroscience lab requires a sharp mind, and thus Dr. Mackler provides a high profile example of someone who can benefit from a BCI.
More information can also be found from the 2006 article "At Home with BCI" by Theresa Vaughan and her colleagues - please see the reference database on our Future BNCI website for more information.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 March 2011 09:09 Written by bzallison Tuesday, 23 March 2010 12:26
One of the first people with a severe disability who used a BCI was named HPS (his full name must be kept confidential). HPS could not communicate through other means because he had a disorder called Lou Gehrig's disease, also called ALS for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. ALS is a disorder that makes it more and more difficult to move. Eventually, artificial respiration is necessary because the muscles necessary to breathe cannot function reliably anymore. Similarly, people with ALS lose the ability to use their hands or voices, and hence they cannot communicate with keyboard, mice or speech.
HPS had advanced ALS when he became involved with a cutting edge research project at the Birbaumer lab in Tübingen, which has long been one of the top BCI labs. Dr. Birbaumer and colleagues developed a BCI system that HPS could use to communicate. In fact, HPS was one of the two BCI users who was described in the first article that shows a BCI that helped a patient who needed it to communicate, which was published by Birbaumer and colleagues in the top journal Nature in 1999. The reference for this article (Birbaumer et al., 1999) is in the Future BNCI reference database. This BCI used an approach based on Slow Cortical Potential (SCP) activity.
HPS continued using the BCI for several more years, until he passed away in 2007. Hence, he used a BCI for about 10 years, and helped to show that patients can use BCIs in a home setting in the long term. Unfortunately, this success was only possible because ongoing technical support was available from a local research laboratory. This underscores one of the main needs in BCI research and development: BCIs that can adapt to users quickly and easily, with little or no outside help.