Paralyzed Man's Uses Brain Implant To Communicate First Words In Months, "I Want A Beer"

Daniel Mitchell-Benoit
A plastic model of a brain.
Unsplash | Robina Weermeijer

Spending any amount of time in a hospital with any type of injury or illness is exhausting. It's no wonder that, once you're given freedom again and are able to kick it in the outside world, you'd want to let loose a little.

This even goes for the most extreme patients, as seen in a man whose first words among being given a miraculous means of communication after being fully paralyzed were to ask for a beer, some loud music, and some food.

A man left paralyzed due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, was just made able to "speak" using a brain implant.

A shot of some hospital beds.
Unsplash | Levi Meir Clancy

He was in what is considered a "locked-in" state, having lost all muscular control of his body. He was also the first test of this type of implant, which consists of two square electrode arrays placed into his brain, on a locked-in patient. Before now, they were unsure if communication was even possible for those in his state.

Not only did this implant help him communicate, though, but he did so rather expressively.

A glass of beer being poured.
Unsplash | Gerrie van der Walt

It took quite some time to get here, and weeks' worth of tests before they were able to devise a way for him to communicate effectively.

His first request? A beer.

He also asked to listen to the band Tool, "loud."

A bowl of pea soup.
Unsplash | Anna Bratiychuk

Then he asked for some curry. Seems he had his priorities in order.

Among these first few sentences, generated at just one character a minute, he asked for some basic care needs such as keeping his head further elevated when there were guests in the room. He made some other food requests such as sweet pea soup, and was even able to interact with his wife and four-year-old son during a visit, saying, "I love my cool son."

Researchers are considering this study a major success.

A plastic model of a brain.
Unsplash | Robina Weermeijer

As Dr Jonas Zimmermann, a senior neuroscientist at the Wyss Center and author on the study, said, "Ours is the first study to achieve communication by someone who has no remaining voluntary movement and hence for whom the BCI is now the sole means of communication."

The scientists behind the technology are hoping to provide these implants to more ALS patients.

A small microchip.
Unsplash | Brian Kostiuk

"This study answers a long-standing question about whether people with complete locked-in syndrome – who have lost all voluntary muscle control, including movement of the eyes or mouth – also lose the ability of their brain to generate commands for communication."

h/t: Independent