Now, paralyzed people can play music just with their thoughts using an instrument invented by Eduardo Miranda the University of Plymouth.
Users need to focus attention on a particular task repeatedly. The device starts to connect particular brain signals with specific tasks by picking up the tiny electrical impulses of neurons in the brain. When the user pushes a button just by directing attention to it, this builds up a distinct pattern which can trigger off a melody. Even the intensity of the music can be changed by changing the intensity of attention.
The researchers tried out their invention on a female patient who has almost total paralysis caused by brain lesions called locked-in syndrome, at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in London. During a two-hour session, she learnt how to manipulate it and was eventually playing along with a backing track. She reported that "it was great to be in control again".
Although the researchers have only developed a four-button system, it is proving to be therapeutic for patients with brain and spinal cord injuries. Taking part in making music had proved to be beneficial for people with neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson's disease.
Now, for the first time, people who have paralysis and who have lost mobility can have the satisfaction of making music just using their thoughts and eyes.