Virtual-Reality Test Reveals Hidden Concussion Damage

A technology that can tell when athletes are ready to get back in the game

3 min read

Autumn is upon us, and in the United States, so is football season. The players, who deliver jarring hits to one another that often equal the force of car wrecks, are lionized for the ability to, in the words of an old watch commercial, ”take a licking and keep on ticking.” But concussions are not uncommon, and new research shows that even when players are symptom-free and have passed a battery of cognitive-function tests, their brains may not have completely recovered and may still be vulnerable to further injury.

An ongoing study at Pennsylvania State University aims to create a reliable electroencephalography system for judging whether an athlete should get back in the game, stay on the sidelines, or call it quits.

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This Implant Turns Brain Waves Into Words

A brain-computer interface deciphers commands intended for the vocal tract

10 min read
A man using an interface, looking at a screen with words on it.

A paralyzed man who hasn’t spoken in 15 years uses a brain-computer interface that decodes his intended speech, one word at a time.

University of California, San Francisco
Blue

A computer screen shows the question “Would you like some water?” Underneath, three dots blink, followed by words that appear, one at a time: “No I am not thirsty.”

It was brain activity that made those words materialize—the brain of a man who has not spoken for more than 15 years, ever since a stroke damaged the connection between his brain and the rest of his body, leaving him mostly paralyzed. He has used many other technologies to communicate; most recently, he used a pointer attached to his baseball cap to tap out words on a touchscreen, a method that was effective but slow. He volunteered for my research group’s clinical trial at the University of California, San Francisco in hopes of pioneering a faster method. So far, he has used the brain-to-text system only during research sessions, but he wants to help develop the technology into something that people like himself could use in their everyday lives.

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