‘It’s wonderful’: Pediatric patients create art by controlling a computer with their mind

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Pediatric patients at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital with restricted communication and physical control now have access to technology to help them play and make art.

The technology, called brain-computer interface, or BCI, enables a direct communication pathway between the electrical activity of the brain and an external device.

Users control BCI by thinking of specific things, which are translated into a command.

With practice, BCI is able to learn a person’s specific brain patterns to perform a task like controlling music or playing a game.

The technology has been around for decades, but it’s an emerging area of ​​research for pediatrics.

“Patients can drive a wheelchair with BCI, play with remote control cars, or make changes to their environment by turning on lights or music,” said Corinne Tuck, occupational therapist and clinical practice lead for BCI Technologies. assistance to Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in writing. Release.

“This technology shows us how smart these kids are. The apps we use here are just the tip of the iceberg; BCI is a type of neuroadaptive technology whose potential we are only beginning to understand.

Olivia Terry, 13, is one of the patients taking advantage of the technology.

Terry was diagnosed with Rett syndrome when he was four years old. The neurological and developmental disorder causes progressive loss of motor skills and speech.

She has lost the ability to speak and walk, but thanks to technology she is able to create art.

She wears an external helmet to detect electrical activity in her brain. This information is analyzed and interpreted by a computer interface, which controls a Bluetooth compatible robot.

Olivia is able to use the device to indicate the color of paint she wishes to use, which is then applied by a therapist on a motorized device. She then uses the device to create unique paintings.

Olivia Terry uses a brain-computer interface to paint.

“Just really proud of herself and feeling really accepted, that she’s doing something that everyone else is doing,” Olivia’s mom, Elana Terry, said.

She will also have access to BCI home kits with commercial headsets that will allow her to practice her skills at home.

“I’m sure some of her friends will come and see what she can do. It just allows everyone to come together and do a fun activity that any teenager will want to do,” Elana said.

Take-out kits can also be used for virtual appointments to reach patients who cannot make it to physical appointments for geographic reasons.

The Glenrose BCI program currently works in partnership with Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

Donors contributed $385,000 to fund the technology.

With files from Nahreman Issa of CTV News Edmonton.

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