Groundbreaking System Allows Locked-In Syndrome Patients to Communicate

Article Groundbreaking System Allows Locked-In Syndrome Patients to Communicate

Using a device which detects patterns in brain activity, patients paralysed by ALS can answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – and tell doctors they are ‘happy’ with life

The Guardian,




  • Innovative
  • Scientific
  • Inspiring


Patients with completely locked-in syndrome (CLIS) can’t move any part of their bodies. Thus, they are unable to communicate. Caretakers, often family members, wonder what goes on in the minds of patients who haven’t communicated for many years. Now researchers have developed a novel brain-reading device that enables CLIS patients to respond to yes and no questions. The Guardian science editor Ian Sample reports about recent research, explains the underlying science and highlights CLIS patients’ somewhat unexpected responses when asked whether they were “happy” with life. getAbstract recommends this article to anyone who likes to challenge society’s definition of a happy life.


What is completely locked-in syndrome (CLIS)?

CLIS is a condition in which patients are totally paralyzed. Even with intact mental activity, they can’t move or speak, they can’t even blink an eye. They are unable to communicate in any way. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease which progressively affects nerve cells that control voluntary muscle action, can cause CLIS.

Can scientists make computers read minds?

As part of a study at University Hospital Tübingen, researchers trained...

About the Author

Ian Sample is science editor of The Guardian and presents its Science Weekly podcast. Sample holds a PhD in biomedical material from Queen Mary’s, University of London.

More on this topic

Electric Brain
Time Trials
Can Lab-Grown Brains Become Conscious?
The War on Gluten
Immune System, Unleashed by Cancer Therapies, Can Attack Organs

Related Channels