OHSU UCEDD Research Team Featured by Bloomberg News

April 27, 2020

The Institute on Development & Disability at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) UCEDD research team specializing in Assistive Technology was featured by Bloomberg News for their groundbreaking Brain-Computer Interface work. The REKNEW lab, led by researcher and UCEDD Co-director, Melanie Fried-Oken, Ph.D., CCC/Sp, specializes in developing technology to address communication needs for people with severe disabilities, such as locked-in syndrome. People living with this condition are awake and aware but cannot move, speak, or communicate easily with the outside world due to paralysis of voluntary muscles.

The eight-minute video titled "Speaking with Brainwaves" highlights the work of OHSU researchers who have spent 12 years on developing non-invasive brain-computer interfaces. Unlike most research of this kind conducted primarily in engineering labs, the OHSU team takes their work out into the community.

As Betts Peters, M.A., CCC-SLP notes, "...the dream goal for [this technology] is to allow people with severe disabilities and communication impairments to communicate with the world in real time. The first goal is to make it work consistently and reliably for the people who need it."

One critical team member is Gregory Bieker, a man who experienced a brainstem stroke 20 years ago and is now locked-in. Greg has worked on this project for 12 years. As his mother, Angelina Bieker, states upon learning of locked-in syndrome, "...thinking that Greg's body was dead, but his brain was alive." We watch as Greg, wearing an electrode cap, uses his brain to communicate with the researchers. The software projects one letter at a time on a screen, and when Greg sees the letter he wants to pick his brain responds with a unique brainwave that signals the software to choose the letter. By working with patients in the field, OHSU researchers are bringing this technology out of the lab, into the world, and empowering patients right now in making their lives better.

As Greg tells us, "I have tested various programs created by the engineers and computer programmers [from OHSU] to see if they are computer friendly for people like me. The exercises I do on the computer are challenging, and I like being challenged... I am excited to be on-board for wherever this new technology takes us. I am happy to be part of the team."

Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/q_vTE8KpEsU