Dutch-born Hanneke de Bruijne is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This unfortunate affliction has occurred way back in 2008.
For the next eight years, her body will be plagued by the degeneration of nerves that manage movements. The mother of three will have a life locked inside herself considering that mobilizing becomes impossible.
De Bruijne's arms, legs and even her fingers will be incapable of any motion. Her face will deny her of manifesting an emotion. Perhaps the only sign that she is still alive is the presence of a mechanical ventilator which helps her breath.
Then in 2015, a brain implant will resurrect her body back to life. She will be able to gain control of her actions. Her capability to communicate will be on track.
In an email fashioned out from a tablet linked to her graft, de Bruijne shares that the implant has given her freedom, self-sufficiency, and security. She speaks about heading outdoors and enjoying nature in the garden.
For a stretch, this strong lady's means of conversing can only be done through the utilization of an eye-tracking device. Even this form of communication is limited and difficult since the tool can be hampered by a significant amount of light which allows eye movements to register.
When the implant came, de Bruijne has been able to communicate better even when she's outdoors. Known as a brain-computer interface, this piece of technology has proven to be effective since it allows autonomous manageability of a computer typing software that transmit messages by using brain activity.
Researchers from the Netherlands's University Medical Center Utrecht have underscored de Bruijne's successful transition in a case study printed on the New England Journal of Medicine. The group has come up with the technology in order to institute an effective way of communicating between totally-helpless patients and the outside environment.
ALS, whose publicity stunt has been attributed to the popular Ice Bucket Challenge, claims around 6,000 individuals annually. The Motor Neuron Disease Association states that 80 percent of those afflicted by this cureless disease loses their capability to communicate.
Nick Ramsey, a Neuroscience Professor at the Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, shares that the implant is fully embedded into de Bruijne's body.
The motor cortex area of the brain accommodates the electrodes which are then linked to a transmitter on the patient's chest. This transmitter sends off data to a receiver that is connected to a computer with letters on a grid. From the screen, a patient chooses a letter when a moving square lands on it. Physical movement is translated by the motor cortex which picks up the signal and relays it to the electrodes. This is done until a sentence is completed.