Stanford University professor and CEO of Neurovigil Philip Low has developed iBrain and is working with Stephen Hawking to access the famous physicist’s brain waves. iBrain is a brain scanner that records EEG data and communicates them through a computer.
Low and his team are working on finding a way to bypass Hawking’s body and access his brain directly. Stephen Hawking, 70, has motor neurone disease and has not been able to talk for almost three decades. He used to use a clicker which enabled him to activate his voice machine but his condition worsened and he currently has to use a “cheek switch.” With this, he takes several minutes to form a message.
photo by elhombredenegro
The iBrain does not have to be implanted into the brain; it only has to be worn. It is made up of a black head harness with a small electronics box and electrodes that will be attached to the patient’s head.
In Low’s meeting with Hawking, he asked the physicist to concentrate on imagining moving his hands and limbs while wearing the device. Low’s goal was to determine if there was any change in the impulses. There indeed was a change in the signal.
Such biomarkers mean that it is possible for intended movements to be linked to words and then converted into speech. This will enable motor neurone sufferers to communicate using tools that will depend more on the brain than on the body. As the technology progresses, it is hoped that more sophisticated brain activities will be recognized and turned into words.
Other possible medical applications of the iBrain in the future include helping doctors prescribe the right amount of medication (by studying a patient’s brainwave responses), as well as helping in the treatment of sleep problems, depression, and autism.