Doctors Create Revolutionary Device
A team of doctors in Israel has developed and successfully tested a breakthrough devices, with the help of which severely disabled people will soon be able to use their noses to write, drive a wheelchair or surf the Internet. The device harnesses sniffing--or breathing in and out through the nose--which involves the soft palate on the roof of the mouth. While it is not an equally-effective replacement for a true brain implant that would allow users to control devices with thoughts alone, the "sniff controller" works better for many patients than eye blinks or other methods of communicating.
The scientists at the National Academy of Sciences and the Tel Aviv University developed a way to convert sniffs--which the devices measures as nasal pressure--into electrical signals. Able-bodied individuals who tested the devices, which consists of a small cannula, like the tubes used in hospitals to deliver oxygen to patients, that sits at the opening of the nostrils and is connected to a small pressure sensor, quickly learned to play computer games and write sentences by sniffing. Encouraged
by the results in the healthy trial participants, the scientists decided to test the devices on quadriplegics and "locked-in" individuals. A woman who became locked-in following a stroke had to be re-taught how to sniff. But within three weeks, she was able to use the sniff controller to write. And a quadriplegic woman with severe multiple sclerosis was able to write for the first time in 10 years, thanks to the sniff controller. She also learned how to move a cursor on a computer screen by sniffing, and now uses the device to surf the Internet and write emails. Ten quadriplegics who tested the device learned very quickly to use their noses to write words, open a web browser, and copy and paste words into a search engine.