Patients with locked-in syndrome can hear you and may be able to respond. He or she typically has global paralysis, except for blinking and vertical eye movements. Some can answer yes or no questions by blinking or moving their eyes if you establish a code beforehand.
Today, those with locked-in syndrome may be able to use technology to aid in communicating. Advances in brain/computer interfaces even make it possible for those who cannot blink or move their eyes to answer yes or no questions.
In the Past, Communication for Those with Locked-In Syndrome Was Limited
When doctors first recognized locked-in syndrome in the 1960s, the only way to communicate with someone with locked-in syndrome was to work out a code to answer yes or no questions using blinking or eye movements. This was tedious and tiring but allowed patients to communicate with the outside world.
It is through blinking his left eye, and with the help of a partner who recited the alphabet repeatedly, that French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby was able to dictate his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Others utilize clear boards and gaze at the intended letter to spell out words. Both methods are still common today, although easier communication methods are available for those who can afford the technology.
Advances in Technology Mean Improved Communication for People with Locked-In Syndrome
Today, there are additional ways for those with locked-in syndrome to communicate with those around them. Computers and technology have advanced quickly over the last 20 years. Today eye gaze devices are relatively common and allow users to surf the Internet, speak through an assistive device, and even type.
Modern options for communication with someone with locked-in syndrome may include:
Head-mouse devices may work for those with incomplete locked-in syndrome or those who recover the movement of their head. These devices use head movement to move a computer mouse cursor, allowing the person to select letters on a speech device, type, or communicate online.
Eye Gaze Devices
Eye gaze devices track the patient’s eye gaze, utilizing their vertical eye movement to type on a virtual keyboard or navigate other screens.
Known as EMG technology, electromyographic devices rely on implanted muscle fiber sensors to move a cursor, operate a switch, or do other simple tasks. This technology is most well known as the tech that allowed Stephen Hawking to continue to communicate despite motor neuron disease.
Allow those with total locked-in syndrome to answer yes or no questions. This requires implanted electrodes to “read” the thoughts of the mind and translate them into words spoken by a digital device. Electroencephalographic (EEG) technology is one type of brain/computer interface currently available.
Continued Technological Improvements May Make Communicating Easier
While brain/computer interfaces are currently limited to yes or no answers and are only about 75 percent accurate, even small advances in this technology may make a significant difference for patients with total locked-in syndrome. Other types of communication require voluntary movement and therefore only work for those with the classic or incomplete types of locked-in syndrome.
For patients with total locked-in syndrome, communication without this type of technology is impossible. These people cannot blink or move their eyes, so eye gaze devices or blink codes are useless. The promise of improving brain/computer interface technology is exciting for these patients and their families.
Communication Is Key for Those with Locked-In Syndrome
People with locked-in syndrome are aware of the world around them and cognitively intact. For this reason, it is vital he or she establish some method of communicating with those around them to have a relatively high quality of life. The easier it is to communicate, the more fulfilling their life can be.
Modern technology has improved the quality of life for many people with locked-in syndrome. As technology continues to advance, patients can expect it to become even easier to communicate.
Talk to a Brain Injury Lawyer About Pursuing Compensation on Your Loved One’s Behalf
The attorneys from Newsome | Melton offer free case reviews for those who have a locked in syndrome diagnosis. If a member of your family suffers from locked-in syndrome, call us today on their behalf. Patients may be eligible to pursue compensation for their medical care, ongoing care costs, communication devices, pain and suffering, and more.
If we can identify how someone else’s negligence played a role in your loved one’s condition, we may be able to hold them liable. Let us review the case for free. We can take on even the most complex civil litigation if necessary, to pursue the compensation those with locked-in syndrome deserve.
Call us today at (800) 917-5888 to get started.