… in bid to help him communicate more easily
By DANIEL BATES
Scientists are working out a way to ‘hack’ into Stephen Hawking’s brain to enable him to communicate more easily.
The world-famous physicist has been trying out the ‘iBrain’ which picks up his brain waves and sends them to a computer for analysis.
Hawking was fitted with a black headband which has a series of neurotransmitters inside it and was told to think about scrunching his right hand into a ball.
He was able to create a pattern which the researchers hope they can one day convert into letters, words and sentences.
Hawking has been unable to speak for the last 30 years due to the motor neurone disease which is ravaging his body and weakening his muscles.
He famously uses a computer to communicate with a robot-like voice which he until seven years ago he used to activate by a clicker.
Now because the muscles in his hand are too weak an infra-red sensor superglued to his glasses monitors his cheek movements which are translated into text by a computer on his wheelchair.
The iBrain has been developed by Philip Low, a professor at Stanford University in the US.
It is about the size of a matchbox and is very light so does not weigh down Hawking’s head.
Professor Low said he hopes that it will be able to monitor him in real time, regardless of what he is doing.
He said: ‘We’d like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain.
‘This is very exciting for us because it allows us to have a window into the brain.
‘We’re building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time.
‘The emergence of such biomarkers opens the possibility to link intended movements to a library of words and convert them into speech, thus providing motor neurone sufferers with communication tools more dependent on the brain than on the body.’
Mr Low will unveil his latest findings next month at a conference in Cambridge, and Hawking may demonstrate the technology.
It could also be used to treat sleep disorders and possibly help to quickly diagnose autism.
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