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‘It’s wonderful’: Pediatric patients create art by controlling a computer with their minds

Child patients at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital with limited communication and physical control now have access to technology to help them play and create art.

The technology, called a brain computer interface, or BCI, allows direct communication between the electrical activity of the brain and the external device.

Users control BCI by thinking about specific things, which are interpreted in a command.

With practice, BCI can learn specific patterns in a person’s brain to perform a task such as controlling music or playing a game.

The technology has been around for decades, but it is a new field of research for pediatrics.

“Patients can drive in a wheelchair with BCI, play remote controlled cars, or make changes to their surroundings by turning on lights or music,” said Corinne Tuck, occupational therapist and clinical practice lead for assistive technology at Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in a paper. buhian.

“This technology shows us how smart these kids are. The applications we’re using here are just the tip of the iceberg; BCI is a kind of neuroadaptive technology whose potential we’re just beginning to understand.

Olivia Terry, 13, was one of the patients taking advantage of the technology.

Terry was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome at four years of age. Neurological and developmental disorders cause progressive loss of motor and speech skills.

He lost the ability to speak and walk, but thanks to technology he was able to make art.

He wears an external headset to detect electrical activity in his brain. That information is analyzed and interpreted by a computer interface, which controls a Bluetooth -powered robot.

Olivia will use the device to show what color of paint she wants to use, which a therapist will then apply to a motorized device. He then used the device to create a variety of paints.

Olivia Terry uses the brain’s computer interface to paint.

“She was just so proud of herself, and really felt accepted, that she was doing something that everyone else did,” said Olivia’s mother Elana Terry.

He can also get BCI home kits with commercial headsets that will allow him to practice his skills at home.

“I’m sure some of his friends will come to see what he can do. It just allows everyone to get together and do a fun activity that any teenager would want to do, ”Elana said.

Take-home kits can also be used for virtual appointments to reach patients who are unable to attend the physical appointment for geographical reasons.

The Glenrose BCI program now works with Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, and Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto.

Donors contributed $ 385,000 to fund the technology.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nahreman Issa.

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