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Until now, communication has remained impossible for people suffering from complete motor paralysis but intact cognitive and emotional processing, a state called complete locked-in state (CLIS). That could be about to change due to a study conducted by scientists in Germany.

The patients all had advanced forms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in which the brain loses the ability to control muscles. Sufferers of this condition are able to think, but incapable of moving or talking. The study, published in PLOS Biology has shown that patients have been able to answer basic yes-or-no questions using a brain-computer interface. One respondent was even able to repeatedly refuse permission for his daughter to get married.

Medicine applicants should consider the ways in which the use of brain-computer interfaces may improve the quality of care and quality of life for completely locked-in patients. Applicants to Computer Science may want to think of how brain-computer interfaces could be developed to detect more complicated answers beyond the yes-no binary.

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