Mind-controlled video game offers hope for trauma patients
Dr Coyle has already tested the system on a small group of patients with severe head trauma, with promising results. One man who has been unable to communicate since suffering a severe injury 15 years ago is making such improvements that he could soon use the software to reliably answer "yes or no" questions.
Several tests have also been carried out on patients paralysed by spinal cord injuries, who can speak freely but are unable to interact with computers. Results showed that over time they could reach the same level of accuracy as able bodied players. Those who master it can move on to further levels which become ever more complex, even allowing the player to take on the role of an electrical pulse carrying messages through the brain.
"This is the training stage, so we don’t want it to be overloaded with graphics," Dr Coyle explains. "There is quite a challenge to maintain concentration and relax - it is like meditation. If you have got lights and other things are happening on the screen it is very hard to focus on the task at hand. There are some games on the market which use similar brainwave-reading technology, but none which involve anything as complex as motor imagery, or imagined movement.”
“The simple concept of the game should not prevent it appealing to a wider audience”, he adds, and he hopes to have a version ready to release to the general consumer by next year or early 2015.
Neurolympics was showcased at the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Forum in London earlier this month where The Telegraph's science correspondent Nick Collins takes a look at how it works – see link below for demonstration.
For more information on NeurOlympics contact Dr Damien Coyle