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Extrasensory Projection (free PDF version)

Extrasensory Projection (free PDF version)

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Student uses brain-computer interface system to Tweet.

In early April, Adam Wilson posted a status update on the social networking Web site Twitter – just by thinking about it.

Just 23 characters long, his message, “using EEG to send tweet,” demonstrates a natural, manageable way in which “locked-in” patients can couple brain-computer interface technologies with modern communication tools. www.smartpeoplemagazine.com

Student uses brain-computer interface system to Tweet.

In early April, Adam Wilson posted a status update on the social networking Web site Twitter – just by thinking about it.

Just 23 characters long, his message, “using EEG to send tweet,” demonstrates a natural, manageable way in which “locked-in” patients can couple brain-computer interface technologies with modern communication tools. www.smartpeoplemagazine.com

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Published by: Smart People magazine (FREE ARTICLES) on May 15, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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04/03/2011

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     C     R     E     A     T     I     N     G
CREATING 
28 
 
SMART PEOPLE 
Extra
sensory projection
Student uses brain-computer interface system to Tweet
In early April, Adam Wilsonposted a status update onthe social networking Website Twitter – just by thinkingabout it. Just 23 characters long,his message, “using EEG tosend tweet,” demonstrates anatural, manageable way inwhich “locked-in” patientscan couple brain-computerinterface technologies withmodern communication tools.A University of 
Wisconsin-Madison
 biomedical engineeringdoctoral student, Wilsonis among a growing groupof researchers worldwidewho aim to perfect acommunication system forusers whose bodies do notwork, but whose brainsfunction normally.is a good scientific exercise,”says Justin Williams, a UW-Madison assistant professor of  biomedical engineering andWilson’s adviser.“But when we talk topeople who have locked-insyndrome or a spinal-cordinjury, their number oneconcern is communication.In collaboration withresearch scientist GerwinSchalk and colleagues at theWadsworth Center in Albany,N.Y., Williams and Wilson began developing a simple,elegant communication
interface based on brain
activity related to changes inan object on screen.The interface consists,essentially of a keyboarddisplayed on a computerscreen.Wilson, who used theinterface to post the Twitterupdate, likens it to texting ona cell phone.“You have to press a button four times to get thecharacter you want,” he saysof texting. “So this is kindof a slow process at first.”However, as with texting,users improve as they practiceusing the interface.“I’ve seen people do up toeight characters per minute,says Wilson.A free service, Twitterhas been called a “micro- blogging” tool. User updates,called tweets, have a 140-character limit – a manageablemessage length that fitslocked-in users’ capabilities,says Williams.Tweets are displayed onthe user’s profile page anddelivered to other Twitterusers who have signed up toreceive them.“So someone could simplytell family and friends howthey’re feeling today,” saysWilliams.“People at the otherend can be following theirthread and never know thatthe person is disabled. Thatwould really be an enablingtype of communication meansfor those people, and I think it would make them feel, inthe online world, that they’renot that much different fromeverybody else. That’s why wedid these things.”Schalk agrees. “This is oneof the first – and perhaps mostuseful – integrations of brain-
Project was to simply move a cursor on a screen. But people with locked-in syndrome wanted more – the ability to communicate.
Among those are peoplewho have amyotrophic lateralsclerosis (ALS), brain-stemstroke or high spinal cordinjury.Some brain-computerinterface systems employ anelectrode-studded cap wiredto a computer.The electrodes detectelectrical signals in the brain– essentially, thoughts – andtranslate them into physicalactions, such as a cursormotion on a computer screen.“We started thinking that
moving a cursor on a screen
“The way this works isthat all the letters come up,and each one of them flashesindividually,” says Williams.“And what your braindoes is, if you’re looking atthe ‘R’ on the screen and allthe other letters are flashing,nothing happens.“But when the ‘R’ flashes,your brain says, ‘Hey, wait aminute. Something’s differentabout what I was just payingattention to.’ And you see amomentary change in brainactivity.”

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