New Technology Might Help Incapacitated TBI Patients Communicate
Traumatic brain injuries can leave a person unable to communicate or make decisions about their health care treatment and other important matters. However, new research may have found a route for communicating with TBI patients who are unable to express their wishes.
Researchers studied a group of volunteers with normal functioning brains and asked them to imagine playing a game of tennis. Doing this would activate a specific area of the brain that humans use to plan complex movements. To witness the brain activity of the volunteers, researchers used a high-tech headset called the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The fNIRS headset was placed on each of the volunteers’ heads, which would then detect the specific areas of the brain that are active during the thought-exercise.
The volunteers in the study were told to “answer ‘yes’ or to stay relaxed to answer ‘no’ while they continued to imagine playing tennis.” When researchers observed activity in the brain’s supplementary motor area, “they knew the person was responding ‘yes.’” According to researchers, this breakthrough might be the gateway to finding new methods for patients with severe brain damage to communicate with doctors and loved ones. This has the potential for substantially altering how health care treatment decisions are made.
Many families who can’t communicate with a loved one after a TBI accident feel pressured to make treatment decisions quickly in order to avoid a scenario where the loved one gets “trapped” in a severely disabled state. Studies show that 50% of families that choose to withdraw treatment make the decision within the first 72 hours of their loved one being admitted into the hospital. Sadly, some of these patients might have recovered if given more time.
You can read more about the implications of this new research here: https://theconversation.com/severe-brain-injuries-technology-can-tell-what-patients-are-thinking-heres-what-to-consider-before-using-it-133209
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