Communication system to improve cerebral palsy in children

A brain-computer interface system could enhance communication skills of people with cerebral palsy from childhood, new research has found.

The Biomechanics Institute of Valencia (IBV) in Spain has led the ABC project and developed a functional prototype of the ABC system.

Juanma Belda, IBV researcher, said: “This is a communication system that offers different interaction modes including a brain computer interface.

“As a result we have developed a communicator that is available free of charge for Android tablets.”

Cerebral palsy is the first cause of childhood disability, the researchers said, and people with DCP, despite having their intelligence preserved, can’t speak or express themselves because they lack motor control.

“Since they cannot express themselves, these children do not connect with other people and end up not developing their intelligence,” said Belda.

The ABC communicator is composed of four independent modules based neural signal processing, computer-assisted alternative communication and monitoring of bio-signals.

The programme allows the user to communicate with his or her environment to perform daily life activities and to communicate with other people.

It runs on tablets as an entry interface with three separate systems besides tactile and including inertial sensors, similar to the mobile phone technology that registers activity, EMG that detects the voluntary contraction of muscles and brain computer interfaces.

“We found that placing either of these systems on the child with cerebral palsy, together with the tablet that we place on the wheelchair, enables the child to express his or her needs, Belda said.

“A short training is required but it is easier than the learning process that any child needs to learn to read or write.”

ABC can also detect up to five emotional states of DCP users like positive (high and low intensity), neutral and negative (low and high intensity), with a system that contains a skin sensor.

The ABC project was funded by the European Union through the Seventh Framework Programme.

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