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Can ALS patients or individuals with severe disabilities benefit from EMOTIV technology?

We repeatedly receive inquiries about the use of the EPOC by people with varying degrees of paralysis and many different conditions, such as ALS, cerebral palsy, stroke, muscular dystrophy, spinal injury, and so on. This forum stream is intended to provide some initial answers. Please feel free to ask more questions, but hopefully, we can cover your initial questions here.    

1. Can EMOTIV headsets be used by people with little or no muscle control?

Our detections are divided into three categories: mental commands, facial expressions, and performance metrics.

Facial expressions are basically derived from facial muscle activations. As delivered, the software has a “universal” model of facial detections with adjustable sensitivity for each one. Some people with disabilities are able to work these, others not. We provide an option to retrain the underlying detections, which can actually recover “intended” expressions for many users with partial paralysis, so they can try to smile, and their characteristic facial response is detected if they repeat the movement. I can’t say whether this will help any particular individual; it depends on whether they retain much residual movement. Facial Expressions also detect: blinks, winks, and horizontal eye movements, which most people retain to an extent.  

Performance metrics track the user’s cognitive state, in terms of Excitement, Interest, Engagement, Stress, Focus and Relaxation. This can be used to set ambient music type and volume, lighting intensity, or as a panic switch. These detections were designed mostly for gameplay and are not medical grade detections, so there will be times when they drift away from the user’s state of mind, but much of the time they work quite well, especially under gaming conditions.  

Mental Commands are intended to work from brain signals alone, and we have some locked-in and partially paralyzed users who can still operate the detections with mental signals as their only possible output. The system can also work from included muscle signals, although we recommend users try to avoid this for greater accuracy and control. Mental Commands allow the user to train up to 13 specific named actions (plus NEUTRAL), but only four can be active at one time. This means that you can specify up to four of the available actions to be activated, and when the user repeats one of these mental patterns, that action is detected (in other words, the system picks out one action from the available four, or the neutral state if no trained actions are detected). We also provide a 10-axis motion sensor which can be used as a pointing device or yes/no detection, for example, if the user has sufficient control of their head and neck movements. So, in short, most people with varying degrees of paralysis can certainly operate the headset in some way.    

2. What else can you say about the EMOTIV devices and their paralyzed users? I have seen some very heartening things already. People who have been severely injured and have basically lost interest in life, upon using our devices for simple mental gameplay, rapidly develop a passionate interest in playing with the device and achieve radical improvements in their mental state and, in some cases, their physical state. Users may inherently exercise neck muscles to control the gyro or to watch the game better, or they can gradually restore some control to facial expressions through repeated use as in-game commands. The EMOTIV headsets can also put paralyzed users on an equal footing with able-bodied gamers in some settings, such as games based on mental duels and so on. Most of all, our technology is fun to use and very engaging to learn, and everyone should have some fun in their lives. As time rolls by, there will be more and more applications, such as neurofeedback and meditation training, where users can learn new skills.   Both EPOC X and INSIGHT can work well for BCI integration. The recommended software is EmotivBCI and/or with Node-red Toolbox or Cortex SDK. Please note that it would require your development and programming skills in order to integrate our technology into third-party BCI devices, such as controlling a drone or helicopter. If you wish to train commands or actions solely for the purpose of having fun with the system, the EmotivBCI app will suffice.    

Here are some videos that may be helpful:

The case of Cora-who was involved in a debilitating car accident in her teens and how the headset allows her to communicate again.

Philips and Accenture innovation helps ALS patients

Damien typing with his mind using EPOC:

EEG controlled wheelchair with EPOC+

Use the force-controlling BB8 ball with EMOTIV INSIGHT

Controlling a drone with EPOC+

Producing music with EPOC+

Rodrigo Mendez and Formula 1

Brain Paint by John

Mario Alvarado creates music with his brainwaves

BCI4Kids Pediatric Rehabilitation Program

Development BCI for individuals with severely disabilities using EMOTIV EEG headset and robot

Additional projects and information can be found in Scholarly papers, as well as a variety of articles and videos relating to your area of interest. We’ve seen many applications of this technology to help improve the lives of people with disabilities. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to touch their lives in this small way and to witness the joy that it brings to them.

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